NOVEMBER 2, 2011
I don’t know why, but I’m strangely optimistic about sequels to movies that I didn’t like in the first place. It’s like I believe EVERYONE was as disappointed as I was and that they’ll get it right the second time around. That, along with the fact that they actually put it into a few theaters a few months back, meant I was somewhat hopeful for Zombie Diaries 2: World Of The Dead, assuming that if nothing else it would improve on its lousy predecessor. Sadly, if anything it's even worse.
Now, since I didn’t care much for the first film, I don’t remember much about it, either, so I might be wrong when I say that they’ve actually managed to get WORSE at realistically staging the film as an actual character’s first person filmed perspective of its events. They certainly haven’t gotten better –in the original they goofed on things like cutaways, but I don’t recall ever completely forgetting that it was supposed to be a first person movie. Here, if you watched several key scenes without context, you wouldn’t even know it was supposed to be a character’s perspective on events. The camera guy, Jones, barely ever talks or interacts with anyone, and since most modern horror movies are shot shaki-cam anyway, it doesn’t really look much different than Generic Zombie Movie 459 for a hefty percent of its runtime.
Worse, he shoots it like he’s purposely making a dramatic horror movie! In one late scene they hear a giant booming sound, like a far off explosion of some sort. Any normal person would spin in that direction, hoping to get an idea of what happened, but not Jones! He instead pans over to each of his companions in closeup, getting their reactions to this event. Ditto most of the zombie scenes (of which there aren’t nearly enough; there are almost as many rape scenes as there are zombie attacks), in which Jones always makes sure to get a good shot of his buddies shooting at off-screen undead, rather than look at the impending danger. Or, you know, put the fucking camera down and help – apparently he prides himself a true documentarian, seeing as he just sits there and films his friends being killed rather than ever make any real attempt to save their lives.
The directors are just as bad, inexplicably presenting the movie in 2.40 scope and mixing the sound like a normal movie, so when our guy cuts from one character to another, the room tone, music (?), and even dialogue on occasion all blend seamlessly, where there should be a noticeable “pop”. I guess it evens out with all of those Beneath The Mississippi type (non-found footage) movies that don’t bother to do that when they should? Again, if this was an issue in the original as well, it didn’t seem to register on me, but either way – this is insulting to the sub-genre, and unforgivable for directors doing this for a second time.
But even if it was shot like a regular movie, it would be pretty dull. At least the first film had different characters to follow, but here we’re stuck with the same group of folks for nearly the entire runtime, and the extended time doesn’t make them more sympathetic or important to us. One of them is actually a character from the original, something that didn’t even register in the film (she is played by a different actress), but she spends most of the movie barely speaking and merely wandering around with the soldiers that make up our core team of heroes (halfway through the film she basically BECOMES one), and thus I don’t quite understand why they even bothered making this connection. If you’re going to bring someone back with a different actor in the part, shouldn’t there be a good reason to do so? Shouldn’t the part be meaty/significant?
Along with a misleading cover (featuring a burning London and what looks like a zombie wielding an assault rifle – neither of which are even suggested in the film, let alone shown), they also bring back the requisite “evil humans” from the first movie, which does nothing but make it feel even more like a 28 Days Later ripoff than it already did. But I guess that’s actually a good thing, because it’s the only real menace in the entire movie – the zombies are the most vague and unthreatening lot ever assembled for a movie. The “zombie” versions of Pierce and Annie in the Halloween episode of Community were more terrifying than any of the ones here, and with better makeup to boot. In what I assume was a “genius” money saving technique, just about every zombie scene in the movie takes place in near total darkness, or shot in blurry night-vision, and thus it’s not even possible to tell who is human and who is a zombie most of the time. Plus they’re even slower than Romero’s original 1968 ones – most of the deaths seemingly could have been avoided if the humans just walked briskly away.
Some of the darkness works in the movie’s favor, to be fair – there’s actually a good little bit in a graveyard with our heroes sneaking around the undead, who are basically blind in the dark (whereas they have night-vision). And as it borders on survival horror at times, the dark, cold exteriors do provide a nice sense of how lousy their situation is. But it doesn’t help the fact that the movie has no real plot to it besides getting from point A to B, without any exciting action or interesting characters to make up for it. You can remove chunks of the movie or re-arrange them in editing and it wouldn’t really matter.
And what the fuck is with the ending? Suddenly they don’t even bother pretending to be a verite flick anymore, with a standard-shot epilogue featuring our last survivor talking to some new characters on a beach. This comes after we finally get the resolution of a recurring storyline in the film where we get glimpses of some past event, featuring a team of guys in hazmat suits. Who they are and what they’re up to is fully revealed at the end, but it means nothing, and I just started wondering if we were seeing these scenes edited into the main story for our benefit, or if the “found” tape had them spliced in like that. Again, there’s no internal logic whatsoever to the way the film is presented.
The DVD has about 25 minutes of interviews/making of footage featuring writer/directors Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett, producer Rob Weston, and the cast. It’s the usual sort of dull junk, save for the horrifying reveal that they plan to continue the franchise. But that’s the only feature – not even the trailer for it or any of Dimension’s other releases. Fine by me though; it’s bad enough I made the mistake of returning to this dull, sloppy “franchise”, it’d be worse if I had to endure a commentary or something. And I think I’ll save the 3rd one (if it happens) for that possibly unattainable time in HMAD history where I am down to the last handful of qualifying horror movies to watch. I’d sooner watch Dark Ride 2 than another one of these things.
Actually I take that back. See, at first I was kind of hopeful, because we see a family get eaten and then they switch to the soldiers, who tell us that they found the tape or something. Since the original had multiple perspectives, I was kind of hoping this would be like a long-form horror version of Mr. Show, where you get all of these 5-10 minute vignettes that are sort of “handed off” from one piece to the next. Or maybe they can do like that movie Twenty Bucks, except instead of an Andrew Jackson the movie’s “main character” would be a camera that would go from person to person (via trade, or found after having been killed, or merely left behind by someone who thought running away from zombies would make more sense than filming them, and present a large, sprawling tale of the zombie apocalypse. If they do that for ZD3 I will come back. But I’d be pissed they stole my idea.
What say you?