Starring Alix Wilton Regan, Philip Brodie, Josh Myers, Craig Stovin, Hiram Bleetman, Marshall Griffin, Rob Oldfield, Russell Jones, Jonnie Hurn, Okorie Chukwu, AJ Williams, Joshua Dunlop, Toby Bowman, Vicky Araico, Criselda Cabitac
Directed by Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates
Cinéma-vérité style horror films are quickly becoming a dime a dozen with indie filmmakers from all over the world trying to capture the lightning in a bottle type successes of The Blair Witch Project, [REC], and of course Paranormal Activity. Though those three flicks easily can be pointed to as the cream of the crop, a few other first-person horror films have met with a good deal of success in their own right. Such is the case with Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates’ Zombie Diaries (review here).
When the news broke that the two talented filmmakers behind that flick would be delivering a sequel, we were nothing short of ecstatic. So how does The Zombie Diaries 2 (known in the UK as World of the Dead: The Zombie Diaries 2) fare in comparison to the original? Sadly, not as well.
Unlike the original Zombie Diaries, The Zombie Diaries 2 takes a much more linear approach than the first film did and continues the stories of two of the original film’s characters – the batshit nuts Goke (Russell Jones) and Leeann (originally played by Victoria (Nalder) Summer and played here by Alix Wilton Regan). Of course the returning duo are once again on different sides of the fence with Leeann running with a military squad led by the square-jawed Maddox (Brodie), who is looking to get her and his troop to safety, and Goke hanging out with a band of necrophiliac psychopaths hellbent on enjoying the chaos. As with the first film, The Zombie Diaries 2 paints a very bleak and disturbing picture of both human nature and the apocalypse. This is a world in which the dead are strong in numbers and scary as hell. All the pieces are firmly in place for a great experience; there’s just one nagging problem regarding this entire affair…
As a cinéma-vérité film it just doesn’t work. In order for a film shot in this particular vein to work, no matter what craziness is going on, the events have to stay rooted in reality. One false note and the audience is taken out of the experience and the experiment is a failure. There has to be reason. There has to be logic.
As a means to keep the cameras rolling, our single main photographer (who also happens to be a soldier) does absolutely nothing but record the events in front of him. He stands there and watches tragedy after tragedy befall his comrades without ever daring to draw his firearm and help out. Even more perplexing? None of his group ever even yells at him for his blatant stupidity or lack of support in the face of sometimes very much surmountable odds should he have just started shooting something other than footage. You’ll spend nearly the entire movie wishing for this dude to either fight or die. It’s so frustrating. If you can overlook this, there’s plenty of undead goodness to be had, but I just couldn’t.
Then it happens. The end. Much like in The Last Broadcast, the final moments of the film free themselves from the cinéma-vérité shooting style, and we’re treated to a teasing look at the movie we should have gotten. There’s no doubt the ending is pretty damned great, but it’s just too little too late. Here is a film that would have been tremendous if it utilized a more conventional style of filmmaking the entire time and left the first-person gimmick behind.
There was definitely more story to tell in this tale, and there’s still more to be told. Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates display a keen eye for the camera and have the unique ability to create a lot with a little. Here’s hoping that if we ever get a Zombie Diaries 3, they come off of their leashes and deliver something truly great. You can only go to the well so many times, and this particular one has all but run dry.
2 1/2 out of 5
Discuss The Zombie Diaries 2 in the space below!