Filmmakers are treating the hand-held camera like a new toy these days, and, as of late, its been employed in a number of horror films. It's a style that admittedly has it's ups and downs. When done properly, the hand-held technique can bring a real documentary feel to a film, making the terror seem all the more genuine because of it. Of course, if the camera shakes too much, you also run the risk of turning your audience's stomachs. Personally, I've never gotten so much as a headache from a shaky camera, and as a stylistic approach I have no issues whatsoever with hand-held if it's utilized properly. One of the big problems with The Zombie Diaries is that it's not utilized properly, but truth be told, the camerawork is only one of this film's failings.
In the midst of a viral outbreak, a documentary film crew sets out from London to investigate what effect the epidemic has had on a small English village. Shortly after reaching the village, their car breaks down, and they find themselves stuck in the middle of nowhere. To further complicate matters, the crew also learn that the virus has now overtaken London, and millions are fleeing the city. Far from home and with no means of transportation, the crew takes shelter for the evening in a seemingly empty farmhouse, but before the night is out, they'll realize the true nature of this disease, and witness first-hand how it brings the dead back to life.
The opening moments of The Zombie Diaries are set up to resemble a 'behind-the-scenes' look at the inner workings of a film crew (a la Blair Witch Project), which means the camera is always running. We see everything, from the trip out of London to the nightmare that occurs in the country, but thanks to some pretty lousy performances, we're taken right out of the documentary "spirit" almost immediately. Lines of dialogue are rushed through, dramatic exchanges ring false, and the general feel is that these characters, who are attempting to mimic real-life reactions to a tragic event in the making, are anything but real. As to whether or not the zombies themselves are effectively portrayed is anybody's guess, because The Zombie Diaries rarely gives us a good look at them. Whenever an infected person is near, the camera shakes wildly, so wildly, in fact, that we seldom have a clear idea of what's going on. Aside from a good early scene, when the crew is investigating noises from upstairs in the farmhouse, we're never given a sense of how dangerous these infected zombies can be. Most often, they're simply blurs we can barely make out as the cameraman is running for his life.
The Zombie Diaries is portioned out into a number of segments, with each segment following a new group of characters as they try to deal with the epidemic. I thought this was an interesting way to approach the story, and might have actually amounted to something under different circumstances. Unfortunately, The Zombie Diaries is just too poorly executed to take advantage of anything it brings to the table, and the resulting film is one I cannot recommend.