The Zombie Diaries

The Walk of Shame

“Dear Diary,

It’s been a rough couple of days.  As you know, I have a crush on that nice boy Tommy, who lives at the mall.  I’ve been trying to get him to notice me, but he doesn’t even know that I’m alive.  Okay, so maybe I’m not technically alive!  Still, even a living dead girl likes to be noticed once and a while. Oh, Diary, I dream that one day my horde and I will be able to break down those barricades that keep us apart.  I’ll be able to tell Tommy how I really feel and then eat his face.  Well, Diary, I have to go now.  I hear Mom is groaning.  It’s dinner time.  We’re having a family of five for dinner.  My fave!”

No! No! No!  Not that kind of zombie diary!  This time I’ll be talking about The Zombie Diaries, a totally different kind of zombie diary.  I do hope that Tommy gets his face eaten off.  She seems like such a nice undead girl.

 

Rather than a linear story, The Zombie Diaries is a collection of three loosely connected video diaries.  Set in the UK, each of the segments depicts a different aspect of living in a zombie apocalypse.

The first segment concerns  four filmmakers, who are making a documentary about some sort of bird flu type of virus that is just starting to jump species.   They do some “man on the street interviews” in London, then they interview Mrs. Buckley, who rather than growing peas on a remote farm in Lincolnshire, seems to be a community activist or local politician.  She’s concerned about how the government is going to address the appearance of the virus in schools.  One of the filmmakers, who I’ll call “Beardy,” while in a television newsroom, gets into a conversation with an elderly reporter who tells him that the virus story is moving rapidly. Reports from New York and London have people getting sick.  There are reports of deaths.   Beardy and the gang then head out to the boondocks to interview a farmer as part of the bird flu angle.

Detained in traffic, they arrive at the farm house three hours late.  They knock on the door.  There is no answer.  Both you and I can probably correctly guess why.   Beardy and company have no idea.  With no answer they decide to leave, but their car overheats in the blistering heat of the English twilight.  Their cell phones also stop working.  With no pubs in sight, they return to the farmhouse on foot.  Zombie fun ensues.  Beardy screams like little girl.

The next two segments take place roughly a month after the first segment.  Here we see two different modes of zombie apocalypse survival in action.  We start with a mobile survival strategy.  Think of it as zombie Road Warrior, but instead Humongous and his pack of punk rock bikers, our scavengers are a nice yuppie couple and their friend roaming around in a sensible family car.  We go with them as they frantically roam the back roads of England looking for food and supplies.

In the final diary we are in standard full blown barricaded farmhouse survivor mode. In these movies they usually try to hole up in a big fat target that otehr more dangerous survivors would want to take, such a shopping mall.   Or they’ll try to flee elsewhere and get hosed in the process.  This group has some reasonable security measures in place and a game plan for restocking supplies.  To be honest, I don’t think that I’ve ever seen a group of zombie apocalypse survivors behave this rationally before.  There is a rather disturbing subplot that emerges in the third diary.  At the end of this diary there is a little epilogue that ties the whole magilla  together.

The title, The Zombie Diaries, is easy to confuse with Diary of the Dead.  Not only are the titles similar, but they have a similar feel in that both are shot in the “found footage” style.  This makes it rather hard to dodge comparing it to George Romero’s  Dairy.  It might also be easy to mistake The Zombie Diaries as a knock off from The Asylum, makers of such blockbusters as The Transmorphers, Paranormal Entity and The Terminators– it’s not.  The Zombie Diaries was made and released before  Diary of the Dead and aside from the superficial similarities, both are very different movies.   Diary of the Dead has a linear storyline and character development.  The Zombie Diaries is more chaotic, nonlinear and to be perfectly frank, has no character development.  Diary of the Dead is a critique of the media while The Zombie Diaries explores the various ways people react to the crisis.

How are the zombies?  They look good.  They’re zombies in the Romero tradition.  They stagger around and gather wherever food has decided to barricade itself in.   Often in zombie movies there is the “money shot” zombie.   That’s the one zombie that gets the top notch make-up, for example,  the conquistador in Fulci’s ZombiThe Zombie Dairies is no exception to this rule.  The first zombie of the second dairy was very well done.  It looked all chewed up and left to rot.  One of the interesting characteristics of the zombies in this film is that, not only are they decomposing, but they are filled with maggots and flies– an often overlooked, if somewhat nauseating touch.  Many times when a zombie gets close to whoever is holding the camera the sound of buzzing flies accompanies them.

The acting is pretty fair.  It’s difficult to say more.  The characters are not that well fleshed out, except as zombie lunchies, so the actors don’t have all that much with which to work.  For most of the characters I felt nothing more than benign indifference.  There are two characters that we, as an audience, are not supposed to like and I didn’t.   So, I guess that worked out.

The screenplay is okay.  The story is believable, at least in the context of a zombie outbreak, which puts The Zombie Diaries ahead of most independent zombie films.  The dialogue is mediocre.  As noted above, there is a lurid subplot, of a kind that I’ve never seen, at least not that I recall, in a zombie movie before.  I found it very unnerving.

While The Zombie Diaries obviously wasn’t made on a big budget, it doesn’t look cheap. The production values approach Hollywood quality.  When watching a movie, it’s so much easier to pick up on all the things that aren’t done well.  Bad sound, poor editing, horrid lighting can kill an otherwise good movie.  All the things that need to be done right to make a movie watchable were done right.

Well paced, the zombie mayhem is evenly splattered over the movie’s 85 minute runtime.  The film only slows down enough for to catch a little breath before we begin to ratchet the tension again up. .  There are no comic turns in the bleak land of  The Zombie Diaries.  There is no looting jaunt to the mall.  There is no lighthearted silliness in searching for the last Twinkie on Earth.  There are only zombies and other monsters.

Starring:
Russell Jones
Craig Stovin
Jonnie Hurn
Imogen Church
Anna Blades
Sophia Ellis

Screenplay:
Michael Bartlett
Kevin Gates

Director:
Michael Bartlett
Kevin Gates

Three and a half out of five Vincents

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