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Zombie Diaries, The (DVD)

Zombie Diaries DVD (click for larger image)Reviewed by Uncle Creepy

Starring Russell Jones, Craig Stovin, James Fisher, Anna Blades, Imogen Church

Directed by Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates

Distributed by Dimension Extreme


Cinéma-vérité films have become all the rage lately. In fact some of the best movies I have seen in recent years have implemented this style of filmmaking. Rec, Diary of the Dead, Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield … the list can go on and on. Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates started production on their film The Zombie Diaries a good couple of years before any of those mentioned above, but the result is just as nail-bitingly real.

The film basically takes place in three parts, or diaries if you’ve decided to play along. Three separate sets of found footage that are at first unrelated but later come full circle tying into one another. In total the combined recovered films cover about a month of dead-fueled goings on, from the outset of the pandemic until military involvement weeks later. The dead are up, hungry, and looking to tear any surviving human to tiny shreds. But what if they weren’t the only danger for our heroes to contend with? What if a more frightening and bloodthirsty menace comes from the people we assume we can trust just because they’re suffering through the same shit that we are? Thus is the main plot for this well above average indie feature.

Though the dead in The Zombie Diaries, are plentiful and absolutely scary looking, they are far from the focus of this feature. This flick is more of a study on human behavior under extreme circumstances than it is your usual pale skinned and shambling eat-em-up.

Zombie Diaries DVD (click for larger image)Much like the incredible graphic novels The Walking Dead, what we have here is a drama that unfolds in what happens to be a world on the brink of extinction. The zombies are completely secondary. That’s not to say you won’t get your fair share of undead action. In fact, the dead in this world are everywhere, and man, do they look bitching! The F/X in The Zombie Diaries is truly top shelf for its budget — every cent of which is up on the screen. Even the most bloodhungry of fans out there should be thoroughly satisfied by the time the end credits run.

There is one big pitfall that holds the movie back from a higher rating though. At times it can be kind of confusing as to whom you are watching up on the screen. The non-linear approach to storytelling within the movie, combined with the prerequisite shaky-cam, is bound to have many viewers scratching their heads and wondering, “Were those the people from the last diary, or are these the same ones from this one, or maybe they’re new characters altogether?”. It can get a bit convoluted. Be warned — this isn’t mindless entertainment. If you’re not paying extreme attention to everything that’s going on, it will be easy to find yourself lost. Things are a lot easier upon a second viewing, however, and thank god for that.

The DVD itself is sporting some great special features to help sort things out beginning with two commentary tracks, one with co-directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates and the other with cast members Russell Jones, Anna Blades, Craig Stovin, Jonathan Ball, and Hiram Bleetman. Of the two tracks I’m going to have to say the directors’ commentary is the one worth your time. It’s clever, informative, and engaging. The second, though not bad, doesn’t flow as easily. From there we get a near hour-long behind-the-scenes making of the movie along with several deleted scenes from each diary. Tack on the theatrical trailer, and that, my friends, is a wrap.

Though The Zombie Diaries doesn’t exactly break any new ground, it does provide viewers with an extremely visceral and at times bleak experience. There are no clever one-liners to be found here — this is straight in-your-face horror that sets the stage for hopefully more things to come. I’m certain there are other Diaries out there just waiting to be found, and as long as Bartlett and Gates are involved, you can rest assured that there are going to be some deliciously dark days ahead of us. Amen.

Special Features

  • Audio commentary with co-directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates
  • Audio commentary with cast members Russell Jones, Anna Blades, Craig Stovin, Jonathan Ball, and Hiram Bleetman
  • Until the Last Light Goes Out: The Making of The Zombie Diaries featurette
  • Deleted scenes for each diary
  • Trailer
  • Film:

    4 out of 5

    Special Features:

    3 1/2 out of 5

    Discuss The Zombie Diaries in our Dread Central forums!

    Steve Barton

    You're such an inspiration for the ways that I will never, ever choose to be.

    • Solrina

      I never would have thought when “Dimension Extreme” was born (with movies like D.O.A. & Dirty Sanchez) that it would eventually be a logo I start to look out for.

      While I’m not big fan of shaky-cam, this certainly sounds like a movie worth watching. Hell, just reading – “There are no clever one-liners to be found here — this is straight in-your-face horror” – Well that is pretty much all I needed to hear!

      • TassieDeviledHam

        No it is not in your face horror. There is nothing in your face about it. The zombies appear in about 2 minutes of the entire movie. The rest of the time its the characters wandering around aimlessly bitching at each other as though the dialogue was written by school girls.

        This is easily the worst horror movie I have seen, and I have seen breeders and all of J J Brookwaters films.

        The reason the opinions are polarized is because all the positive reviews were fake opinions by the directors who have created a stealth viral marketing campaign, pretending to be teenagers and saying things like “ooh this looks good” “Cant wait to see it !” ETC.

        BUSTED !

    • TassieDeviledHam

      No I do not recommend anyone watch this movie. It was truly terrible. The reason why views are polarized is because the gleefully positive reviews are due to the makers of the movie themselves enacting a viral marketing scam.

      I bought this tripe and actually asked the video store to get my money back. I was surprised to get a refund but was then told I hadnt been the only one !

      Makes sense.

      Really this movie is just terrible. A bunch of clowns walking around handy cam style filming well .. nothing. The zombies are barely in this “movie” (I use the term movie liberally). Its more like a grade school homework assignment. The first 6 minutes or so is good and then it just becomes completely stupid. I bought it based on the seeing the first few minutes. What a waste of time that was !

    • Wolfe4086

      Not a big fan of this film. The deliberately misleading coverart and trailer are bad enough. For a supposed zombie apocalypse there are hardly any zombies at all and the few do show up are often take out with laughable ease. The characters’ acting at times seems forced and the camerawork makes for a pain to watch. That being said I will go into the one positive aspect of the film. It attempts to show the human response to a diaster. The psychological breakdowns and bouts of mania that occur are interesting how the acting is what kills it. That being said I would not waste money on the film other than as a free rental perhaps.

      “The Assassin’s blade can be more effective than an entire division of soldiers” Sensei Yamashita of the Tanaka Corporation School of Assassins.

      • rupp30

        how was this misleading to you exactly?

        i didn’t think it was that bad of a film but i think just about every zombie film is the same now. there’s nothing fresh coming out. the last really really good zombie flick was (REC). I’m looking forward to Zombieland and if they can ever get shooting on World War Z I’ll be suprised. The book was incredible.

        _SedanHollows_

    • hellbilly_drp

      Uncle Creepy, I think this review is right on. I just watched The Zombie Diaries through a Netflix rental and I’ll definitely be getting my own copy. The making of featurette was enjoyable, and I’m looking forward to the film maker’s commentary.

      I am surprised at how many negative reviews this is getting on Amazon and Netflix. Just as interesting is the almost equal amount of four star reviews. This seems to be a polarizing flick. I think it is serving as a bit of a whipping post for folks who are getting tired of “found footage”, cinema verite, or video movie making in general. A lot of the negative reviews read as if the reviewer fast forwarded through or gave up on the movie altogether. This is sad, because despite its humble budget, it really is a good flick. I find it similar to NOTLD in terms of budget and the conscious decision to avoid Hollywood standards. Romero is one of my heroes, but I’m afraid I’d take TZD over DOTD anyday.

      Here’s to a Horrific New Year…

      • Uncle Creepy

        Yeah, I dug this a lot! Glad you agreed!

        • shaneg

          I have this dvd sitting next to my tv right now. Got it through netflix, just haven’t watched it yet. I also noticed a lot of bad reviews for it, but it still sounded interesting to me. I’ve found that I agree with most of your reviews, so I’m now going into this one with a more positive attitude. Hope I get to it sooner than later!