New on DVD: Zombie Diaries

Combining two elements that have been seen excessively in cinema is not the recipe for a good film.

Zombie Diaries follows the general scenario of an unknown epidemic sweeping rapidly across the country – in this case England – that animates the dead and creates flesh-hungry monsters. The first group is a documentary crew attempting to record the progress of the outbreak. Of course, it has spread much faster than they anticipated and they are trapped in the middle of it now. The next section picks up a month later. A couple and a hitchhiker scavenge local areas trying to find enough supplies to stay alive a little while longer. In the meantime, a ragtag group of survivors hole up at a farmhouse, protecting their territory from the zombie horde. In the end, it turns out the real terror comes from within not without.

The story is interesting enough but it is conveyed entirely through handheld camcorders. This is a great device for low-budget storytelling but it is difficult to get right and will inevitably fail in comparison to The Blair Witch Project. That said, at least this flick avoids the nauseous movements of its predecessor. The introduction of the camera only makes sense in the first instance since the group is actually a film crew; however, its endless documentation of the other events seems impractical. This divide is pushed further when the camera operator invades the sanctity of a bedroom to capture a particular moment or hangs back in a zombie attack to record the feeding frenzy.

The acting is not bad and the attack sequences are realistic enough; even the zombies look pretty good. However, there are too many characters and most of them are never explored or expanded upon. Consequently, it is impossible to connect to or sympathize with any of the individuals before they meet their demise.

In any case, horror master and zombie originator George Romero has already employed this approach to the undead tale.

The DVD provides two feature commentaries: one with co-writers/directors/producers Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates and another with the cast. Each is a lively, different account of the shoot. The hour-long “making of” featurette does not follow a logical course and is not as insightful as one would hope. Finally, the 15-minutes of deleted scenes are completely omissible.

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