Zombies. They’ve been a part of pop culture ever since Night of the Living Dead back in ’68, and in my opinion that movie set the bar as to what a zombie film should be. Few movies have come close to matching it, but none have ever surpassed it in my opinion. Enter The Zombie Diaries. I picked this up from the bargain bin a while back simply because the back of the box praised it as being “the most realistic zombie movie ever made.” Let me tell you, while there are some redeeming qualities of The Zombie Diaries they are few and far between. This may very well be one of the worst, if not the worst zombie film I’ve ever seen. As always, possible spoilers if you care about that kind of thing.
Where do I even begin? This is a 2006 B movie so the actors and co-directors are unknowns, and for the sake of the planet earth, let’s hope it stays that way. To the actors’ credit, they did the best they could with what they had, but almost every directorial decision that was made in the production of this movie was awful. First of all, this is a documentary-style found footage movie. I hate these types of movies with a passion. The best way I can describe this is The Blair Witch Project with zombies. The camera is almost never held still, and most of the time is pointing at the ground as whoever is holding it is running either to or from something. When the camera isn’t pointed at the ground, it’s so jittery and moving in and out of focus that it’s borderline nauseating.
This is also an anthology movie of sorts, which usually I don’t mind but in this movie it doesn’t make sense. We start with a military squadron sweeping what might be a farm, might be some kind of warehouse complex, it’s hard to say. They run around for a bit checking various buildings and we jump backwards in time to a film crew shooting a documentary about some mysterious virus that’s been spreading from Asia to other parts of the world. We follow them for a bit before jumping forward in time and switching between two different groups of survivors, before jumping backwards in time again to find out what happened to our documentary crew, and jumping forward again to the military squad to close out the film. If that sounds confusing, that’s because it is. What makes it worse is that all of these stories tie into each other, so the movie has to shoehorn everything together to make it work. Why couldn’t they just tell four separate, self-contained stories? Who knows, but the movie suffers for trying to make it all one big story.
Then there are the zombies. Now, when you think of a zombie movie there are two very distinct types of zombies that come to mind: the classic Romero zombies that are slow, methodical, and endless or the 28 Days zombies that can run and jump and all that. As I said earlier, Night of the Living Dead is my gold standard for zombie movies, so it goes without saying that I’m a fan of the slow shamblers. The Zombie Diaries takes the idea of the slow zombies and makes them all but immobile. There are multiple times when there are tens of zombies in a group and the survivors can easily pick them off from a few feet away because the zombies AREN’T EVEN MOVING! The only time when the zombies actually seem to have any mobility is when it’s convenient for the plot to kill someone off (which only happens a couple of times.) The makeup for the zombies varied between decent and horrible, probably because of the budget and mostly because there was no real need for good zombie effects when the camera wasn’t even trained on them for most of the movie. The only time the zombies looked anywhere close to good was when there was only one zombie, and it was either already dead so the camera could focus on it, or was standing still long enough for the camera focus on it.
To the movie’s credit, the majority of the characters in the movie weren’t idiots. For the most part they all made good, logical decisions on how to deal with the zombies, but that’s also because they had all the time in the world to do so because of just how immobile the zombies were. That is of course, unless the movie decided things weren’t progressing fast enough then suddenly there are zombies behind our survivors when just moments before there were none. I guess the zombies are also ninjas when it’s convenient. Unfortunately, this always leads to whoever is holding the camera to freak out, which leads to minutes of the camera spinning around, looking at the ground, and trying it’s hardest to give you motion sickness.
There is no plot to speak of here, since it is a “documentary-style” movie. We just bounce around from group to group watching them either talk, drive, walk, shoot at zombies, or be surprised by zombies. At least in The Blair Witch Project there was some unknown factor to keep the audience engaged. Not so in this movie. We know what the threat is, we see where the threat is almost all of the time, and the survivors react accordingly. Aside from ninja zombies the only major surprise in the film comes when one of the members of a survivor group goes rogue for absolutely no reason and kills the rest of his group. This part of the movie admittedly has the best shot in the film, because the camera is on the ground and doesn’t move! This scene happens at night so the camera’s night vision is on and we see our camera man stumble forward after being shot and crawl along the ground while a horde of zombies slowly comes into view. If the entire movie was shot as well as this one scene then maybe, just maybe, it could have been salvageable.
Overall, this is a movie that you can absolutely skip, and in fact you should skip it. Stay as far away from this movie as you can, especially if you like zombie flicks. If this weren’t a documentary-style found footage movie then maybe it would work; but sadly it is, and it doesn’t.