Around the same time George Romero announced his mockumentary "Diary of the Dead," over in Britain, some low budget filmmakers began work on their own zombie mockumentary -- with a suspiciously similar title.
"Zombie Diaries" takes place in the UK during a zombie outbreak the likes of which we have seen a million times in movies before. Dead people walk following some kind of virus and eat the living. A shot to the head can do them in. It feels like almost a companion piece to "Diary of the Dead" and was released in the U.S. by the same company that released "Diary": Dimension Films.
A group of journalistic survivors head out of London. In a small town, they confront a sudden nighttime attack of the undead. Eventually, via a constantly running handheld camera, we follow a band of survivors as they navigate the countryside and confront the living dead in fields that look a lot like Pittsburgh, even though the film was shot in the UK. With a meandering plot that doesn't really head anywhere, the film ends with a strange torture scene sans zombies.
If there ever was a movie that proves mockumentaries are not easy to make, it's this one. In order to get a viewer to suspend disbelief, mockumentaries require believable dialogue and acting -- something that "Zombie Diaries" fails to deliver. The film is sluggish to the point of being unbearable during its first act, when we are getting to know the characters. The characters are flat, unbelievable and their dialogue is terrible.
Compare that with Act 1 of "The Blair Witch Project," "Diary of the Dead", "Quarantine" or "The Last Broadcast." These mockumentaries actually felt real to a certain extent because their characters were so well developed. It really is critical if the viewer is going to buy into the film. "Zombie Diaries" fails here.
You also have to have makeup effects that are believable too. After all, the film we are watching is supposed to be real. "Zombie Diaries" doesn't deliver in the makeup either.
Where it does deliver is in the zombie scenes which do capture some of that George Romero magic. Despite the limited effects budget, directors Michael Bartlett and Kevin Gates do capture some zombie eeriness during the nighttime scenes.
But it isn't enough to make this film worth recommending unless you're an absolute diehard zombie film who has seen just about everything else and wants something more. Most everyone else will want to stick with the infinitely superior zombie mock "Diary of the Dead."