Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Zombie Diaries

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! We've have zombie romcoms, zombie action films, zombie horror movies and this one is a zombie "found footage" film...when are we getting the zombie political thriller?

The Zombie Diaries – 1 out of 5

One year before Paranormal Activity made all the world’s laziest filmmakers realize they could make a film that, in the loosest of definition, can be called a movie, The Zombie Diaries was produced and proved that the “found footage” genre was light years lazier than anything the PA films produced…and that’s saying a lot.

Okay, so a virus gets unleashed in the world and zombies are now shufflin’ around the place and looking for warm, living flesh to sink their rotting teeth in. Meanwhile, a documentary crew travels the city streets to collection responses for the rumors of the viral outbreak before digging into leads that send them to the countryside and the possible epicenter and location for where it all started. There, they discover the horror firsthand. Cutting some time later, we see another “diary” of some survivors trying to find supplies in a full blown outbreak and, finally, we are treated to the final “diary” of random people trying to make a life for themselves on a farm while zombies continuously come wandering in through the fields.

All zombie movies need a scene where two girls just have tea and dish.

The Zombie Diaries is composed of four short “found footage” style stories of various people and various times during the outbreak (including some military dudes...because you can't have a zombie movie without 'em). The movie is not actually a bad idea, except it suffers all the shortcomings that would later, after this film came out, go on to become the usual shortcomings the subgenre has. Mainly, the film never explains why people are filming these activities. Granted, the documentary film crew makes sense but once they get into some trouble, they continue filming and, let’s face it, it’s makes no sense.  Throw that camera at the first zombie you see and haul ass in the opposite direction! Once the reality that the project you are working on is doomed, filming would, in real life, stop. 

Told ya there were military dudes.

Even though the doc crew makes some sense, the rest of the stories make no sense at all for why they are filming. The survivors looking for supplies have absolutely no reason to film—in fact, it’s actually a hindrance because one hand is always full and trying to find batteries or some place to charge your camera will eventually become almost as important as finding food, water or even a safe place to sleep. Finally, the tale of the guys at the farm puts in as much effort for reason as the survivors…pretty much, “We’re filming for…for…um…documentation purposes?  Yeah, that's it.”

"Dude, survivors are going to want to see the establishing shots and B-roll I'm

And the film doesn’t even bother dealing with the “found” part of the “found footage” genre.  It could be argued that the military recovers the footage but, by that point, you're pretty much doing the writer and directors work for them.

"Just set the camera down over there so it can film us finding supplies.  We'll watch
it later so it can distract us from the fact we didn't find any supplies and are going
to die soon."

I know I bring this up every time I review a “found footage” film and it looks like I am looking too deep into a cheap zombie movie but I always feels these little details are quite important because the subgenre is sold realism and lacking realistic motivations and ignoring the fact that despite everyone literally has a camera ready to take pictures of their lunch or film a cop abusing his powers, we still just plain don’t film every living second of our lives the way “found footage” films make it look like we do. Furthermore, not revealing that some sort of authorities found this footage of some doomed individuals is just a little too important of a detail to step over and just having that detail makes the films feel a little more authentic and real.

"Make sure you shine that flashlight directly into my eyes.  It'll help when something
bad happens."

However, if there’s enough meat to the film’s story and other elements of production, there is the potential I can overlook this oversight and possibly enjoy what I’m watching. Sadly, there just wasn’t much going on with The Zombie Diaries that I could get into. Yes, I am a fan of zombies and keep hoping for the day the dead rise and I can finally put into practice all my years of zombie killing training (aka video games) but just having the undead in a film, book or McDonald’s Happy Meal tie-in isn’t always enough for me.

It's a "found footage" film...shots like this are just expected.

Groundbreaking acting is usually not something you look for in a “found footage” film—you’ll never see an actor or actress win an Academy Award for being in a Paranormal Activity movie or whatever possession “found footage” film that comes out right behind the PA one. Usually the films are filled with complete unknowns who, let’s be honest, are not the most convincing of actors. This film is no exception. While occasionally I saw some scenes that contained passable acting, the overwhelming majority of the time, I watched characters that looked like any and every situation caused their motor functions to shut down. Very often, when faced with a zombie, characters would just stop and stare at them (more out of lack of direction and not out of acting like they're scared), and hope someone who wasn’t holding a camera was going to save them. Other times, actors gorged themselves on scenery to overact the living fuck out of their scenes…while sharing sequences with people that look like the two men who directed and wrote this (yes, it took two) just pulled them off the street.

Like any good documentary cameraman, make sure you waste tons and tons
of battery life by recording the rest of the production crew making phones calls
and trying to figure out how to get themselves out of the trapped situation they
are in.  Never, at no point, do you help them.  Just film.

The make-up effects on the walking dead is not much better than the acting. Aside from using some white-out contact lens, the make-up is pretty unimaginative—that is, if you can actually see them. With a severe lack of lighting during the night scenes and an inability to keep the camera steady for a single second during the day scenes, it’s really hard to get a decent glance at the zombies. When you do get to see them, the make-up is about on par with what myself or any other typical, average, non-make-up professionals could create with a cheap set from Walmart. Most of the deadies just look like they had some black goo streaked down their face for…well, dirt, I suppose…and then had a lot of red goo streaked all over them for blood.

"Guys, stop.  John tripped and hurt his ankle."

Okay, so the movie isn’t filled with epic acting, stellar make-up effects and it doesn’t really take into consideration the typical plot holes that come with the “found footage” genre. Maybe the story and the ensuing events are strong enough to get my interest since just having zombies isn’t.

"A zombie is coming at me...I'll just stand here and see where this is going."

Sadly, that wasn’t the case either. While I, admittedly, dug the approach the film took towards its story, the way the events occurred and the seemingly pointless nature of the “diaries” just could stop me from being bored. I honestly liked the idea of a zombie outbreak occurring and people’s video documentations of the horror being located and viewed. However, TZD just lazily puts these things together (and tries to get creative with a wannabe ironic twist ending). It doesn’t help matters that what you actually see in the “diaries” looks just as lazily as the actual plot of the film. The stories offers up barely any sense of character and each one felt like they were made up on the spot, moments before “action” was called by the directors (seriously, it took two people to make a film that looks like it was made with cell phones and about 10 seconds of prep time).

The Zombie Diaries actually held some potential for me because I liked the concept and I like zombies. However, the film just felt lazy and so half-assed the entire time that I just couldn’t get behind it and couldn’t stop myself from being bored with it.


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