I’m not a big fan of the whole “first person shooting video” genre which most people call mockumentary. It’s a hard format to shoot in because, on the surface, it seems to defy logic. Why would you be recording something when your life is in danger? That’s what I thought until I saw a show this year on 9-11 about people that did just that as the Twin Towers fell. They grabbed their cameras and started recording everything around them. I don’t mean to compare a horror movie to such a big, real life tragedy, but I think it informs our fiction intake when we see how real people react to real situations. So if it happened in real life, it makes sense that it would happen in a movie. Fine.
But my other problem is a bit more meta. The basic idea behind these kinds of fake documentary movies is that we the viewers are supposed to be watching the movies as if we exist in the same world the movie does, right? In Cloverfield the footage was found and presented to the viewers (maybe, our “role” is that of a government official or something on TV after everything gets back to normal). Right there is my problem with Zombie Diaries as a whole. The film consists of four different groups of people recording their experiences after the zombie outbreak. By the end of the movie you discover that all four connect somehow (I think, but more on that later). Now, in the world of the movie, that means that someone had to find all four tapes (one of which belongs to the military, so we’ll assume they’re the ones that find them), watch all the tapes and then edit them together so that they have a big reveal at the end to show how they were all connected. Aside from being highly coincidental, it just seems silly. Who would watch that kind of thing? If it’s a government video, it wouldn’t be so creatively edited, the content would make it less than suitable for TV (even British TV) and what kind of person would want to go to the movies to see a documentary about people turning into zombies, getting attacked by zombies, rape, murder, etc? If the film was shot like a regular film, none of these would be problems and I’m probably thinking a little broadly here, but it’s something that came to mind while I was watching the movie.
If that kind of big question isn’t the kind of thing that would put you out of a movie, it’s a pretty good flick. The basic premise is that a zombie outbreak hits England and we get four different video accounts of what happened. The initial and final ones are present day videos being down with the army. Then there’s a group of TV news people who are out in the countryside when it first hits, two dudes and a woman and then a bigger group of people on a farm. I really liked the opening post-army guys with the TV people. It had a good sense of atmosphere and actually made sense for the most part because the guy recording was actually a cameraman.
Without getting too much into the plot (SPOILERS) here’s what happens. We see the outbreak through the eyes of the TV people, then we jump to the group of three where we get to see our one and only straight-on scenes of zombies attacking people and then it turns out that the leader of the larger group at the farm is a twisted bastard with a woman tied up in another part of the farm. Well, guess what, it’s one of the TV people. Oh, and one of the farm people also probably killed the last living guy from the group of three as he ran towards them as they fired their guns, wailing and not actually calling out like a normal, thinking, rational human. They killed him thinking he was a zombie, as well they should have, the idiot. Finally, we watch as the army saves the girl after the crazy guy leaves the farm.
Now that I think about it, Zombie Diaries would probably greatly benefit from another watching, though I’m definitely holding off for now. Before getting into some more complains, I have to say that what I could see of the zombie makeup looked pretty good, the “getting shot in the head” bits looked alright as far as I know and the acting was good and realistic without being too over the top or just plain bad).
Okay, now onto the last few complaints. Due to the mockumentary style, we miss out on a lot of the action because the camera’s facing another way. That’s annoying. On the other side of that, though, you’ve got these people videotaping terrible things happening to their friends like when the two guys in the group of three have to leave the girl after a car accident and when the last surviving guy has to shoot the other guy in the head so he won’t turn into a zombie. That’s CRAZY! Why would you tape that? They also don’t cut away when a woman from the larger group decides to shoot a little girl in the head. She’s not even a zombie, she’s just badly injured. The cameraman puts the camera down RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER and gets a front row seat for her death. Also, how do they keep getting tapes and recharging their batteries for these cameras. It’s a month into the infection in most the cases and it doens’t look like anyone has power (though I assume the army guys are all set). Oh and finally, the larger group of people at the farm have this ridiculous habit of running outside at night to shoot at zombies. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Just freakin’ wait until morning or get some better locks on your doors. That’s a terrible, stupid idea. Maybe it’s because they were being lead by a terrible stupid psycho guy, but maybe not.
Ugh. Even with all that, I’d recommend checking this one out if you’re a horror or zombie fan, but if you hate the mocumentary style (and I think I’m starting to) you can skip right over this one.
Oh, crud, one more thing. The box of the DVD which I have here, but couldn’t find an image of online is completely misleading. It’s got this Steve Austin/biker-looking guy walking down a devastated street with plenty of zombies. He’s got the bio hazard symbol on the back of a vest and he’s carrying a shotgun and a handgun. NOTHING LIKE THIS EVER HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE, but damnitall if I don’t want to see THAT movie. Actually, I’d like to write that movie, maybe I’ll start on that tonight…