The Zombie Diaries (2006)

As Britain finally falls prey to the zombie virus sweeping the world, three very different groups of people battle for survival - filming everything as they go along. The Zombie Diaries has been described as the most realistic zombie movie ever made, which might well be true. The opening scenes, as an inexperienced young documentary crew head out into the country to interview some farmers about the supposed bird flu problem, are worryingly accurate. It's all too easy to imagine that this is precisely how Britain would react, if the dead were rising: with a sort of detached unconcern while the threat is held at a distance, then a tendency to blame the government when things get a little closer to home. Even when the news breaks that the zombie virus has reached our shores, the scenes of never-ending traffic jams leading out of London aren't anything new to anyone who's tried to leave the capital on a Saturday afternoon.

The next 'diary' concerns a group of scavengers, one month later. With their food supplies reaching a dangerously low level, they need to venture out into a town somewhere - and hope that earlier scavengers haven't picked the place clean, or that the zombie infestation won't prove too intense. Finally, another group are holed up at a farm, cut off from civilisation, but with, apparently, enough ammunition to keep any trespassing zombies at bay. It's a pretty bleak-looking vision of the future, that's for sure.

To make matters worse, one of the survivors really isn't a person you'd want to be stuck in a lift with, let alone depending upon for your continued survival. And some of the diaries are out of order, so it takes a while before the audience finds out who the bad egg is, and quite what it is they're up to. (Warning: it's pretty horrible.)

Taking its cues from the Blair Witch Project, The Zombie Diaries is shot using handheld cameras, so there's a lot of moving about. Probably not ideal if you suffer from motion sickness. There are times when this works brilliantly, letting the viewer really feel like part of the action. Unfortunately, there are also times when it really doesn't work, at all: it's often unclear who's holding the camera, and, more importantly, why they're holding the camera; there are some sequences in this film that you really wouldn't expect anyone to film.

Usually, exposition of this type would be cringeworthy, but there really needed to be a few more shots of people talking straight to the camera, explaining what's going on and why they're filming it. The documentary crew can get away with it, obviously; but it's clear that the writers and directors knew they were facing limitations, hence the amount of dialogue concerning running out of tapes and/or batteries, so it's a pity they didn't quite cover themselves on this issue. Even a quick "I don't know why I'm still filming this, I don't think anyone's ever going to watch it, but I think this should be on record" kind of line would have helped. As it is, you're often jerked out of the moment by wondering why anyone would carry on filming. A couple of times, some atmospheric music creeps onto the soundtrack, which also breaks the viewer's willing suspension of disbelief - plus, it's just not necessary. The subject matter, for the most part, speaks for itself.

Another minor quibble is with the "one month later"/"one month earlier" tags. Somehow, it would've felt more real if the diary entries had just been dated. Just a day and month would have worked. But that's being really picky.

On the bright side, The Zombie Diaries has some really scary moments; some brilliant-looking zombies; and lots and lots of gore. It's unsettling in its realism; it's all too easy to believe that this could really happen. It's pretty timely, too, looking at the way the country is reacting to the flooding and disasters. It's just a pity that the medium wasn't exploited to its full potential.

IMDB link

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