I never caught the first film in the 'ZOMBIE DIARIES', franchise, mainly because at the time of its release I was clamoring to lay my eyeballs on George Romero's DIARY OF THE DEAD, a 'found footage' film with a very similar concept. Romero, of course, remains the godfather of the undead, so there really was no choice between the two films. Unfortunately, Romero's fifth film in his 'dead' series was retina searingly bad. A film to inept in every damn way that it effectively put me off both zombies AND handheld horror for quite some time. Until the amazing REC came my way, and renewed my love for third person mayhem.
With much trepidation, I decided to have a look at this, WORLD OF THE DEAD, knowing that it was a stand alone film, so I had no worries about back story. After all, its about zombies, man. They're dead, they walk, they munch off the faces every poor soul the stumble across. Pretty simple stuff.
WORLD OF THE DEAD follows a platoon of soldiers, (via a cameraman), as they make there way through a ravaged Great Britain towards the coast, where the promise of salvation awaits them. They have two days before the boats leave Britain never to return. And to make matters a little more tense, the whole damn country will be getting firebombed just as soon as the last boat hits the ocean. That's the plot, what there is of it, and it suits the film fine. This little indie flick has nothing more on its mind that creating a fast paced, exciting mini zombie epic, and its actually succeeds in a sense. The pace IS very fast, as they entire film is basically structured as one set piece after another. It would be hard to call this boring, the zombie attacks are well shot and have a tension and threat that was all too absent in Romero's DIARY. Where that film meandered in a pit of its own bloated sense of importance, WORLD simply wants to show you a good time. And it does, sometimes.
It helps that the characters are all very well cast. Performances are all above average, and each character feels relatively flashed out. They're a likable bunch, which of course helps you to give a damn as the get there faces ripped off by the shuffling pus bags. I found Vicky Araico to be the strongest character, and the one I could most empathise with. I won't give away her fate, but this is a zombie movie. They're not known for their optimism, that's all I'm saying.
The zombies, rest assured, are old school. Makeup is basic, of course, but they are effective. I'm sure a lack of extras was an issue during filming, but some intelligent camerawork helps cover the cracks. On occasion, you will wonder what the problem is, seeing as these tough military types could seemingly skip round the zombies with ease. Its rare though. Nothing a little suspension of disbelief wont remedy. Also, as its set in a post apocalyptic world, your gonna have to sell the desolation and the ruin of a country/world gone down the tubes. Directors Bartlett and Gates, wisely locate their story in the rural woodlands and rolling fields of England, so theres no need for scenes of burnt out towns or cities. The setting works fine. You'll know your watching a restricted vision, but it rarely hinders the story.
What DOES hinder the story, are the constant stream of references to other, better films. Of course, WORLD OF THE DEAD will be compared to REC, and next to that film and its sequel, this little flick doesn't stand a chance. That's to be expected, but its the other references that struck me as strange. Theres an entire sequence that recalls I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, down to the retarded gang member forced into raping a captive. It pulled me out of the film completely, and while a disturbing scene, its just too reminiscent of the exploitation classic to hold any authenticity.
Overall, its hard to hate on a film like WORLD OF THE DEAD. It tries hard to entertain, it succeeds most of the time, and it valiantly battles against its mediocre budget. If your looking for a decent little zombie film that doesn't outstay its welcome, then it may be worth checking out. And it must be said, its FAR better than Romero's film, which perhaps says more about Romero than it does about this puppy. I enjoyed it. And almost instantly forgot about it afterwords. No harm, no foul. One thing though, keep your expectations low, and ignore the advertising and DVD packaging. Theres no cityscapes, no massive zombie hordes and it sure as hell isnt, 'The best horror movie of the year, Genuis', as Fangoria are qouted as claiming, (did they REALLY say that? hard to believe). Its a watchable little zombie film, and thats all it is.
Lemme know what you think...
Zombie Diaries 2 [Blu-ray]