Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Zombie Diaries - review

2006 (UK)

Contains mild spoilers.

The Zombies Diaries is a gritty suspenseful zombie survival drama. A UK low budget affair with the quirk of having its narrative split into three distinct first person shaky cam diaries in a kind of junior World War Z (the book not the film) way. It's an ambitious original zombie drama, presented pretty well clearly respectful of zombie cinematic tradition and all that comes with a small budget. It really does an awful lot right: the post-apocalyptic survival plot is cohesive and coherent, the characters are mostly authentic displaying the right amount of confusion, terror and irrationality and the zombies are good solid synchronised gut munchers. Unfortunately though it does have its fair share of problems, and if I'm honest they're mostly all self-inflicted.

Written, directed and produced by Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett Zombie Diaries is an attempt to convey the terror and confusion of the zombie apocalypse through three distinct and personal first hand accounts and kind of get them to converge as a singular overarching narrative. Three different stories, settings and sets of characters are all united in being set in roughly the same part of the English countryside, and all are dealing with the fact virtually everyone is either dead or undead, the government and authority seems to have collapsed and food and water are diminishing rapidly. All three groups are also united in two other ways though. All three, have some doofus more interested in documenting their increasingly desperate and strained survival, and all three have their share of acting that unfortunately ranges from mere-average to awkwardly strained and poor.

While it makes a valiant attempt, especially earlier on of avoiding that common docudrama pit-fall of having the audience question why the camera is still rolling as the proverbial shit hits the pan, the further the film progresses the more it all starts to unravel. It's the problem with this style of film and while it's easy to provide an acceptable rational as the tension builds up it's definitely harder to get the audience to accept why it's still so important to carry on filming when people are scrambling for their lives or zombies have actually started gorging on your own insides, though by this point in the film Gates and Bartlett had obviously given up trying.

The zombies are surprisingly effective working just as well as a ghoulish abominations stumbled upon in the dark and designed to scare, and shuffling relentless Romero-esque sleep-walkers deserving of both pity and stress. The make-up is convincing and their presentation gritty, foul and unpretentious. They're well synchronised, which I always look for, and uniform but, and maybe it only bothered me, they're a bit too stationary for my liking. The undead of Zombie Diaries move with the sort of speed that if you saw one a hundred foot away across say, a farm courtyard you could realistically go for a shower, freshen up, change and have bite to eat before they'd pose any credible threat. I'm all for sticking to tradition but Romero's slow gait undead worked because they at least moved at a gentle stroll and I'm not condemning the film because of their lack of urgency, it's just I found myself thinking on more than one occasion, how could something so mind-numbingly pedestrian have successfully and with such expedience have wiped out most of humanity. Ok, I know the virus was supposed to have initially been air-born/water-born or something; an Asian bird flu pandemic, but it's further passed on with a good old fashioned zombie nosh and it's certainly implied this is now the primary danger.

What it does do well is present a solid post-apocalyptic survival plot with an ability to build pulse-racing and highly effective suspense and deliver on it. Gates and Bartlett certainly have a knack for setting up quite frightening sequences that genuinely made me jump. With some clever subtle monotone music accompanying you'd not think was there if you weren't looking for it there's plenty to commend. I was also fairly happy with most the survival gubbins, though I can understand why many felt it was all a bit too fillerish and mundane.

Zombie Diaries also isn't afraid to play around with quite dark ideas and imagery and the whole film takes quite the turn for the last fifteen or so minutes and I'm not wholly convinced it was the right idea though it did bring some unexpected conclusion to the film. All in all a good low budget zombie apocalypse film let down by some unconvincing acting and dialogue and unable to overcome the very limitation that acts as its main trick. A bit full of cliché and safe, seen it all before zombie action, and it rather plods along at times it's hard to really recommend. One probably for the zombie aficionado only, 5/10.



  1. I actually agree with 5/10.

    This movie had some good ideas but, they just never went anywhere. It became a movie that had a lot of potential and didn't make anything of it and just became generic. Great review.

    I just followed you, I like your blog a lot. I'm always looking for new horror bloggers to chat with. There's not a lot of us around anymore but, the ones that are kick butt.

    If you wanna chat horror, swing by my page.


    1. Thanks, you're very kind.

      I've added your blog and I'll check it out thoroughly over the next few days but like what I've seen so far.
      Next up for me is Evil Dead II, which I know isn't strictly a zombie film but has its place here. I'll have a look what you say about it!

      Cheers, WTD.

  2. There are definitely some good scares, but DAMN some of this film is hard to watch. Plus they don't really tie everything together very well. I've had the sequel in my list of "to watch" for a while now...

  3. Thank you for the in-depth review. Very well written and some great analysis.