Oct 6, 2014

Review: The Zombie Diaries (2006)

We can all thank 28 Days Later for bringing back zombies with a vengeance. It's up there as one of my favourites of the genre, most being part of George A. Romero's filmography. Unfortunately, the zombie resurgence means having to deal with all the junk films that will also try to take advantage of what's popular at the time.

Looking at the IMDb score as well as the Rotten Tomatoes entry for The Zombie Diaries would seem to indicate that it's not a very good film. I tried to avoid making that assumption. It's shot in a quasi-found-footage style as far as I can tell so it could be interesting. TZD is also a pure independent effort from Englishmen Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates, so I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Genre: horror, sci-fi
Directed by: Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates
Produced by: Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates
Written by: Michael Bartlett, Kevin Gates
Music by: Stephen Hoper
Running time: 81 minutes
Production company: Bleeding Edge Films, Off World Films
Distributed by: Blue Sky Media, Accent Film Entertainment, Dimension Extreme, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: £8,100
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Scott Ainslie, Toby Bowman, Victoria Summer, Juliet Forester, Anna Blades, Craig Stovin, Leonard Fenton, Jonathan Ball, Alison Mollon, Kyle Sparks, Jonnie Hurn, Sophia Ellis, James Fisher, Russell Jones, Imogen Church, Will Tosh, Ralph Mondi, Hiram Bleetman


The film goes through three "diaries." The first follows a group of documentary makers who are doing a story on a viral infection that's making it's way across the globe. When they arrive at a farm for an interview, they find that the infection has finally hit the UK as well. The second diary is about a group of survivors who go into a small town to find some supplies. The final diary follows another group taking shelter in a farm, making do with supplies they scrounge for and keeping a close watch for zombies who encroach on their territory.


I was relatively impressed with the beginning of The Zombie Diaries. The actors are natural enough, if a little stiff. There's some actual tension before they make their big discovery concerning the infection having made its way to where they are that's actually pretty well done. I was on the edge of my seat. The minute the zombies make their appearance, it's shocking how quick this movie nosedives. The first diary is definitely the best of the movie, but from there it's all downhill.

Apparently most of the dialogue is improvised. That would be impressive if everything didn't feel so stiff and unnatural, especially in the second and third diaries. Following the first batch of actors, we get two groups of thin and uninteresting characters. They might as well be faceless because I can't remember any of them as I write this minutes after having finished the film and I can't remember their names either.

The found footage style doesn't really do The Zombie Diaries any favours. Nothing is done to really take advantage of the style except for one moment that is clearly ripped off from The Blair Witch Project. The camera does sometimes cut on or off at times which feels natural I guess. That's the only good thing I can really say about how the style is used. However there's a score, even if it is just one sort of ambient song, that spoils the effect of making this a true found-footage film. Add the non-linear storyline and I guess this was never supposed to be a found-footage movie at all.

Also of real importance here, the zombies in TZD look really cheap unfortunately and the fact that they're the slow moving kind isn't a good thing. There's never enough of them on-screen for these slow-movers to actually be scary. I understand that there's a budget here but having made these zombies fast movers would've been better I think. If you're going to have slow movers, tight quarters are a necessity or you need to multiply the number of zombies on screen by huge amounts.

With some lame attempts at human drama and poor zombies, The Zombie Diaries just doesn't work out. It's honestly pretty incredible how quick the movie turns on a dime to be this awful from what was a pretty promising start. I thought this might end up being an underrated zombie movie but it isn't that at all. Avoid it like the plague.



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