If you’ve seen 2006’s “The Zombie Diaries,” you’ll be quick to note the similarities with “The Blair Witch Project,” that ultra-low budget horror flick that made so many moviegoers motion-sick back in 1999.
Here’s the thing, though – “The Zombie Diaries” almost succeeds where “The Blair Witch Project” failed because, basically, the storyline makes a lot more sense.
Told through the eyes of three different groups of survivors, “The Zombie Diaries” was billed as “The Best UK Zombie Movie of the Year” in 2006. Astute Zombiephiles will, of course, note that there really weren’t many zombie movies out of the UK in 2006, so “The Zombie Diaries” self-proclaimed superlative may be a bit overreaching.
What can be said about “The Zombie Diaries” is that it is truly one of the most spirited, earnest and actually terrifying zombie movies that this Zombiephile has ever seen – and he’s seen a lot of them.
The shaky camerawork that made “Blair Witch” such a frustrating and nauseating experience is perfectly suited to the topic matter of “The Zombie Diaries.” The film is broken into a non-linear storyline, beginning with the outbreak and ending a few months into the epidemic. The first frantic, harrowing encounter with zombies stands out as quite possibly the scariest zombie “discovery” scene I’ve ever witnessed. There’s no badassery, no heroics, just a small collection of incredibly scared people with cameras. The initial cast, a British film crew sent out into the rural boondocks of Great Britain to seek out information about the outbreak, far outshines the remainder of the actors and actresses, some of whom seem to have taken their acting style directly from the pages of Keanu Reeves and Christopher Walkin.
Although the cinematography begins strong, disbelief begins creeping in as soon as we meet the second cast of survivors. When we’re not distracted by some famously poor performances, we have to ask ourselves, “Why are they documenting their desperate search for supplies instead of simply searching for supplies? Why not drop the camera and kill some zombies? Or even better, kill some zombies with the camera? And where the hell are they getting all of these batteries and tapes from? I can’t get my camera to work for more than two hours.”
If you can suspend these gripes, though, “The Zombie Diaries” turns out to be a pretty fun movie, all things considered. Toward the end of the movie we begin to realize that these seemingly disconnected narratives may, in fact, be much more intertwined than we initially realized, and that Zombies might be the least of our problems. In that sense, at least, “The Zombie Diaries” scores points with this Zombiephile, and by the end of the movie I actually found myself thinking, “You know, for a movie with practically no budget, that wasn’t half bad.”
There are some caveats, however: “The Zombie Diaries” doesn’t pull many punches at all, and that’s another place it succeeds. Its harsh, unflinching portrayal of the creeping madness of a survivalist lifestyle will have you biting your nails and checking your windows for brain-craving zombies outside.
In short, if you love Zombie movies, see “The Zombie Diaries.” If you love good acting and believable character motivations, don’t see “The Zombie Diaries.” If you want to be highly satisfied by a somewhat short, but engaging look into a tiny slice of zombie survival, “The Zombie Diaries” might be a good fit for you. But if you’re looking for the next “Dawn of the Dead,” look elsewhere – “The Zombie Diaries” is essentially devoid of the inherent social criticism and metaphysical soul-searching that zombie movies have become so famous for.
Oh yeah, but if you just want to see a bunch of people get eaten by zombies – which is always the deciding factor for this Zombiephile – you’ve found the right movie.
Final Verdict: Two Moans (Out of Four).