Monday, October 1, 2007

Reality Bites


As a bird flu-like virus hits Britain, its inhabitants are turned into flesh-eating ghouls. Unfortunately, the budget for THE ZOMBIE DIARIES could never stretch to as many undead on its impressive poster art.

PRODUCED, written and directed by Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates, this low budget film is a culmination of six years work, and conceptualised long before the announcement of George A. Romero’s similarly themed and upcoming DIARY OF THE DEAD. THE ZOMBIE DAIRIES comprises of three separate video stories, that later cross and merge around an army-related prologue and ambiguous coda. The first is “Outbreak,” where four documentary makers set out to interview a blighted Hertfordshire farmer; the second, “Scavenger,” follows three people desperately looking for supplies, and in the third, “Survivors,” a beleaguered group start to unravel when one member becomes infected. Under a simplistic and sparingly used score, the work is a slow-burning and often unnervingly creepy experience, mixing social commentary with crowd-pleasing scenes of gut-munching and zombie sex. The cast acquit themselves with a commendably naturalistic and improvised acting style, but THE ZOMBIE DIARIES ace card is that it asks the question “in a decaying world, could human nature be a greater threat than the zombies?”

From the titillating showmanship of INGAGI, to the haunted backwoods of THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and the video diary of a serial killer in THE LAST HORROR MOVIE, the vogue for films constructed from faux footage has always benefited from the miraculous fact that the person holding the camera never drops or damages it, or simply throws it and runs. Ruggero Deodato’s quintessential Third World horror CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, in particular, shares similarities to Bartlett and Gates’ movie in both structure and its ending narration, “I wonder who the real cannibals are.” Yet THE ZOMBIE DIARIES seems more perfect because it exploits this technique for the noughties age of media obsession, where we feel the need to document any aspect of human experience for public consumption. The filmmakers can be proud that they have created a fitting apocalypse for our YouTube generation.