Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Zombie Diaries, The (2006)

Directed by:
Michael Bartlett
Kevin Gates

Dear Diary, I just watched one of the worst zombie movies ever made. It's called The Zombie Diaries, and I feel the need to warn everyone out there what to really expect from this monotonous bore... When THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT was released to theaters in 1999, it was actually something quite novel for its time. While not the first film to utilize the faux documentary approach, it proved that a film could use this format cheaply and efficiently to both develop a sense of realism and help build tension through frenzied camera-work. One thing that other filmmakers often employing this same technique don't seem to realize is that one of the other things that made BWP so successful is how subtle it is. The threat is kept off screen the entire time. We never once see it. The film successfully managed to engage the viewer and make them use their imagination. That, combined with the ingenious internet campaign, made the film the most financially successful independent horror production of all time (toppling the record set down by HALLOWEEN over 20 years earlier). Unfortunately, when it comes down to how BWP has influenced the genre since it was released, the 'horror of the unknown' aspect doesn't seem to have caught on, while the shaky POV video technique remains... In the wrong hands this spells disaster.

The Zombie Diaries is shot using the hand-held camera constant POV. We are seeing what the people involved are seeing, which seems to be mainly blades of grass and trees during the day, or "night vision" green-filtered scenes illuminated with a flashlight at night. It is broken down into three segments. The first involves a four person documentary film crew doing street interviews before heading out to a rural farmhouse, where their car promptly breaks down and they discover the living dead have already paid a visit there. The second segment has three people fleeing into the country from the city, doing some looting in a ghost town and encountering zombies along the way. The third segment is again set in the country; this time at some living commune where bickering survivors try to stay alive. The first segment takes place "One Month Earlier" and sort of links up with the third because a pair of psychopaths are around to prove that humans can be far nastier than the living dead. Yeah, we already got that back in 1968 when NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and in 1972 with CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS and again in 1978 with DAWN OF THE DEAD and so on...

I have a lot of respect for anyone who goes out there with little money and manages to make, market and release their own film. It's not easy. That said, I found almost nothing of interest here. In fact, I thought it bordered on unwatchable. Nothing even remotely scary happened during the short 80 minute (75 minus the credits) run time. It didn't even provide any decent jump scares. It's also loud, stupid, lacking tension and suspense and has horribly written dialogue (someone even tries to equate their feelings to how the people in the Twin Towers felt... oh please!) being delivered by unconvincing amateurs. There is no real attempt at characterization. I didn't like a single person in this film and could care less what happened to any of them. The zombies makeups were OK at times but were mostly very minimal and unimpressive. The camera-work was horrendous even by faux documentary standards. Three-fourths of the movie seemed like it was people standing around in fields arguing.

It's also filled with irritating character actions. Why do the idiots in this film continue to hold onto a video camera while they were being attacked by zombies? I understand filming them from afar but when one is already on you and is biting you I think it's time to drop the camera. Several people get killed because they are so busy filming. I understand the documentary people doing this, but most of the time it's just an Average Joe doing it. You'd figure a full month into a zombie outbreak you'd have plenty of home movies to show the grandkids that likely won't even exist. There's also one scene of an injured, probably infected man tied down to a bed... and his girlfriend goes to sleep right next to him with her hand resting on his shoulder! One of the worst scenes takes place after a man with two passengers sees a couple of zombies, swerves off the road and wrecks. Two of the guys, both with guns, get out and leave an injured, unconscious woman inside (who I think is actually one's wife). Not only do they just leave her there, but they leave the door wide open! And then they stand about five feet away and videotape while one of the zombies pulls out her guts. Incidentally, this is one of the only gory scenes in the entire film, but did they have to be so sloppy just to include a scene like this?

Bottom Line: It's poorly made, poorly acted, poorly paced, boring, brainless and thoroughly unoriginal. Not worth your time or you money. Watch George Romero's vastly superior DIARY OF THE DEAD (2006) instead.

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