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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie Review - The Zombie Diaries

Well, I finally saw the movie The Zombie Diaries yesterday. The British newspaper The Guardian rated it as "one of the best of the genre", but before I give you my review, allow me to state that this is a spoiler alert.

Spoiler alert!

Spoiler alert!

You have been warned that "Here There Be Spoilers".

In my not so humble opinion this movie is far from "the best of the genre". In fact, the movie is choppy, poorly filmed, often confusing, and misdirected into what can, by the end, be considered a sadomasochistic exercise that wasted the viewer's valuable time. It is put together as a set of poorly- and confusingly-related video diaries which appear to have been filmed by an amateur cameraman attempting to splice together another Blair Witch Project. In many cases the film so closely resembles BWP that it is obvious that the director was extremely heavily influenced by that film (not that I cared much for BWP either).

The film begins with a brief montage of a military platoon cordoning off and clearing the outbuildings of a farm. A pair of guys in biological protection suits examine a body on the side of the road and remove something from it. The film then switches to 12 hours earlier and follows the apparent outbreak of some kind of viral plague in China and a TV film crew as they head out of London to visit a farm where the farmer has apparently been forced to slaughter his chickens and has lost his livelihood. Leaving London, one of the lead male characters is informed by his producer that something appears to have happened in New York City, but he cannot quite determine what yet. As the crew arrives at the farm they find it apparently deserted, but their car breaks down as they attempt to leave and, of course, the two female characters and the cameraman wander off to the also-apparently deserted village nearby in search of help as their cell phones are not working. Shortly thereafter they return to the farm where the other male character receives a phone call (Huh, what? The phones weren't working just a short time ago at the farm, right?) stating that something has happened in London, 3/4ths of the city have been blocked off, and the hospitals are filling with victims of the virus.

The crew breaks into the farmhouse where they find the body of the dead farmer and are attacked by his apparently zombified wife or daughter. They then return to the village where they encounter and escape several more zombies.

The film then switches to a month later where several survivors are on the road attempting to retrieve supplies. The cameraman is apparently the only survivor of the earlier TV crew. This group narrowly escapes another group of zombies (these are the slow kind) outside a food store, and return to their sanctuary. There is a choppy nighttime scene, intended to be using night vision cameras, as the survivors fight off a group of zombies attacking them across an open field. The survivors, instead of fighting from a fortified position, engage the zombies with their guns, at night, in the open field, with flashlights illuminating the key figures (can we say let's destroy one's night vision), and some of the fighting gets within hand-to-hand range.

As I recall, because at this point I'd probably had one beer too many which is the only way I managed to watch this entire piece of crap, the film switches again. This time, we have the same, sort of, group of survivors with one or two new members. Several of them are again on the road while one of their leaders has gone off by himself. The group is hunting supplies on foot, find a body, check it (but not thoroughly enough), and declare the thing dead. As they move on they are attacked by the zombie and one of them is bitten. They jump in their vehicle and attempt to escape, but run into another group of zombies and have an accident. One of the female characters is knocked unconscious and the three men with her, one of whom is bitten remember, leave her behind in the car where she is eaten alive. On foot, the men attempt to escape through the woods, but the injured man is unable to go on and they kill him as he sickens further (as they should have earlier). The survivors manage to make it back to their camp where there's a confrontation, shot at night using night vision, between the leaders.

The next morning, two of the group move out to investigate the far side of the forest that the zombies have been coming from (crossing that open field mentioned before). Here they find the deserted farm from earlier in the movie (surprise!) and move in to investigate. They find one of the female TV reporters from the earlier video diary, naked, zombified, and tied spread-eagle in a stall inside the barn (you can guess what she was being used for).

From this point on the film switches back to a short segment of two, apparently Middle Eastern, men who joined the group a short while before. There is a segment where one of the men is apparently torturing a zombie by cutting off his finger joints one by one which was filmed by the cameraman earlier. Discovered, the villains set about killing the male survivors and tying up the females for their own private usage.

By this time I am thoroughly hammered, not to mention extremely tired of this pile of crap so I'll spare you the final details. Let's just say that no one wins in the end.

Overall, this is a poor film, hardly among "the best in the genre" unless one completely fails to understand the zombie genre in the first place (which The Guardian's reviewer apparently did). It is badly-scripted, horribly acted, shabbily shot, and has a plot line so inconceivably imagined it boggles the mind how it ever managed to make it to DVD though, luckily, it was never shown in US theaters as near as I can tell. Oh, and the DVD cover shot which shows zombies wandering through London near Big Ben? It's never even seen in the movie. Even the movie Lifeforce had the decency to show us a few London locations being overrun by the alien vampires.

Two big thumb's down on The Zombie Diaries. At $7.50 that's 3 less beers I could have had this week (hmmm, a rating system based on the number of beers the movie cost me? That might just work... - a 3 beer movie (meaning you'd better have 3 beers in you before watching it)?).

Thursday, May 06, 2010

What Makes A Story "Good"

New writers and not a few more experienced writers often come against the dilemma of "Is my story any good?".

What constitutes "good"?

Well, a few people from over at the Analog forum have come up with a list of what makes a story "good".

If it makes you want to turn the page or read the next paragraph and it keeps going on like that, it's a good story.

If it makes you laugh somewhere along the way, it's a good story.

If it makes you think somewhere along the way, it's a good story.

If it makes you wake up in the middle of the night and reach for it, it's a good story.

If it keeps you awake long after your regular bedtime, it's a good story.

If you find yourself talking about it with your friends, it's a good story.

If you find yourself looking for it online or at the library or a book store, it's a good story.

If you find yourself re-reading it for the second or third or tenth time, it's a good story.

If it makes you lose yourself in it for an hour or a day or week and forget the cares of the day, it's a good story.

Marian added that "If it makes you remember it years later, it's a good story".