Sunday, January 30, 2011

Horror Movie Review: The Zombie Diaries

The Zombie Diaries

Starring: Russell Jones, Craig Stovin, James Fischer, Sophia Ellis, and Jonnie Hurn

Directed by: Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates

Written by: Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates

Production Companies: Bleeding Edge Films and Off World Films

Release Date: October 29, 2006

A mysterious virus begins making its way around the world. People in the know are being tight lipped about it, and some citizens are strongly concerned and others are dismissive. But then the virus turns up in Britain killing the infected and turning them into zombies.

Doing a report on the virus, a small news crew gets caught in the country and what they witness and experience is caught on tape. Then we jump to a month later as a small group scavenge for supplies. Then another jump as we get video footage of a large group surviving a couple of months later. They reconnoiter the area surrounding a farm where they have holed up killing the ever roaming zombies. Eventually the group turns on itself. Then we went back to the first chapter to find out what happened to the documentary crew.

The film had potential and moments of great amateur documentary-style handheld camera events. The accidental shooting of survivors thought to be zombies was particularly poignant. The bound, naked female zombie shows the depths which humanity would fall away from being humane according to the two filmmakers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Bates are concerned making the true monsters of the film the all-too-human survivors.

The shaking handheld camera work helps the low budget feature from having to being too realistic in makeup and effects, which helps. I personally love fake documentary horror. People complain about the shaky camera, but I feel that, when well done, it helps create the horror and tension that might be lost in shooting these low budget films like normal movies. You have to focus harder to see what's going on which leads to a stronger scare.

But where their plot for the story is effective, Bartlett and Gates's execution of the fake documentary ruins the effect. The realistic feel of the shaky handheld camera gets ruin by what I would call two glaring mistakes. First, realism includes a plausible reason for actions and little attempt was made, after the first chapter, for why someone was running around with a camera recording things. Even the first chapter didn't explain why so much film was being shot. In The Blair Witch Project, they were students so they were wasteful and then wanted proof of what they were seeing. 86 minutes of film made sense. In Cloverfield they said a few times how they needed to document what was going on. But in The Zombie Diaries, little justification was given for the use of the video camera. It doesn't even fit with the characters we saw. Survivors concerned about zombie blood being tracked in on boots would more likely being telling the camera guy to put the damn camera down and shoot zombies when things got out of control.

But the handheld camera effect loses its punch when you hear the movie score. The other fake horror documentaries did not have a movie score. The lack of music helps make the movie feel real while the musical score makes it feel like you are watching a poorly filmed movie.

On top of that, the nonsequential order of the scenes, coupled with the scratchy and shaky film shots and poor character display makes it hard to tell exactly who you are looking at. I think the three chapters are connected and that the camera used in all three are the same camera, but I'm not certain because it was difficult to tell who was whom. Without clear connections, the three chapters seem disjointed.

Related Trailers

The Sickhouse - Jonnie Hurn has a brief role in The Sickhouse. Archaeologist Anna (Gina Philips) is thrilled to excavate the site of a 17th-century plague hospital. But when her dig unleashes the spirit of a murderous doctor, she'll have to do all she can to thwart the hospital's dormant evil secrets from springing to life. Trapped inside the hospital with four trespassing teens, Anna must find a way out before history repeats itself. Who will become the next patient?

Hellbride - James Fisher also stars in Hellbride. When Nicole's (Rebecca Herod) boyfriend, Lee (James Fisher), proposes to her, she's in heaven -- until she puts on the ring. Then, she's in hell as visions of hideous creatures begin to haunt her and the ring itself becomes stuck. Such is the curse of the antique band that Lee unwittingly purchased, its original owner having been jilted at the altar. Now, the couple must unravel the mystery of the ring and shed its spell before it destroys them.

No comments: