Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: The Zombie Diaries

Dir. Michael Bartlett & Kevin Gates, Accent Film Entertainment, 2006

The Zombie Diaries is an independent, low-budget UK movie (just released in Australia on DVD), dealing with the variety of zombie apocalypse beloved by George Romero and his ilk. In this instance, it’s all due to a Bird-Flu-like pandemic that sweeps Asia before hitting England, and the movie is constructed from ‘found footage’ shot on video by three separate groups of people struggling to survive the crisis.

On the one hand, this is a pretty good little film. Even without taking into consideration the budgetary limitations, it’s mostly well-shot, and as tightly-plotted as a ‘constructed’ film can possibly be. The atmosphere is extremely creepy, with a nice sense of growing tension from beginning to end. The acting, too, is reasonably good, aided by some (mostly) natural-sounding dialogue and interesting characters.

On the other hand, having picked out this movie solely because it was an apocalyptic zombie flick (a subgenre I’m unapologetically obsessed by), I was rather disappointed to find that it wasn’t really about zombies at all. Sure, there are zombies in the movie, but the movie isn’t about the zombies themselves; rather, it’s about the behaviours people adopt when faced with extreme situations. Of course, previous zombie movies – such as Dawn of the Dead, etc - deal with similar issues; however, in such movies it's the unique nature of the zombies themselves that drives the action and character development (ie – how would you cope having to destroy a zombie that used to be a family member?), whereas in The Zombie Diaries the undead threat could be interchanged with any other extreme situation (war, disease, natural disaster, etc) to achieve the same dramatic effect. Here, the zombies fade into the background as the plot unfolds, and even the occasional gory zombie-attack moments are rendered ineffectual due to shaky POV camerawork and nighttime shooting.

So, in conclusion, a pretty good horror movie, but not necessarily a good zombie movie. Worth watching.

(Originally posted to HorrorScope, 2008)

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