Monday, March 01, 2010

Review: The Zombie Diaries

It's interesting--you'd think getting a laptop and being able to post a blog entry from anywhere would help you keep on schedule when you go out of town, but it actually doesn't. Which is why there was no Thursday blog entry last week. Sorry about that!

I did manage to watch a movie in the airport on said laptop, though; it was "The Zombie Diaries", a documentary-style film from 2006 about a mysterious disease that compels people to carry video cameras everywhere they go and bring them to a small farmhouse in the British countryside. Will these people be able to stop themselves from videotaping everything? Will their footage be assembled into a vague, incoherent storyline that purports to be utterly realistic because it doesn't explain what's going on, yet uses incidental music and editing techniques that scream, "Look, I'm a movie!"? Will there be trite 9/11 comparisons? Why did the director ever think that Kyle Sparks could do an American accent? Watch the movie and find out!

In all seriousness, the movie is a classic example of a good idea for a short film that the film-makers decided to expand into a feature because there's not a big market for short films. The premise for the first "diary", where a film crew gets trapped in the British countryside during a zombie outbreak and runs afoul of both zombies and other survivors who are taking advantage of the chaos to indulge in, um...anti-social's not bad. (Although it does feel like some of the characters accidentally wandered in from a slasher movie that was being filmed twenty yards away in the same forest.) It never feels necessary or original, but it's not bad.

But once they introduce the other two diaries, which don't have the excuse of being about a film crew, the "found footage" conceit stops making sense. The characters never develop any real depth or connection to the audience (seriously, I'm not sure I even understand the final twist, because the characters were so interchangeable that I wasn't sure who it was that was rescued at the end.) And the screenwriter uses the "found footage" angle as an excuse not to fill in several dangling plot threads. What happened to the other psychotic drifter? Who buried the documentary crew? What prompts the gunfight/massacre at the end? Oh, too bad, the camera wasn't turned on right then. Sucks to be you, audience.

Documentary-style horror films are very hard to pull off at the best of times, because they all struggle with the central premise that someone would, in the midst of a zombie crisis/giant monster attack/endless nature hike through Maryland, lug a video camera around and film it all in dramatically appropriate fashion. To suggest that three such people exist, and that they all happen to be in the same part of rural England at the same time, is a little too much to swallow.

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