I recently watched the two newly released zombie offerings, Dance Of The Dead and The Zombie Dairies. I didn’t feel too strongly about either one, so I figured I’d bundle them together for this On The Shelf.
Dance Of The Dead is a title that has been on my radar for what seems like ages now and has finally seen the light of day through Sam Raimi’s video distribution company Ghosthouse Underground. Dance Of The Dead is good, but not great. It is enjoyable fare with surprisingly good production values, which elevates it above other recent undead indie offerings like Automaton Transfusion and Kevin Tenney’s Brain Dead. It plays heavily on its influences, but having said that, what zombie movie doesn’t these days? I’m actually shocked that it took until 2008 for someone to marry George Romero with John Hughes. For those keeping score, all the usual high school stereotypes are represented. Dance Of The Dead is a fun yarn that had enough fresh ideas to keep me interested, but I guess I was expecting something more earth shattering, considering how it was tearing up the festival circuit all year.
The Zombie Dairies, released on the Dimension Extreme label, is a lot more serious an affair. You know, it’s a real shame about this current wave of cinema verité filmmaking. Since Cloverfield came out at the beginning of this year, it would appear to the layman that all these titles like REC, Diary Of The Dead jumped on the bandwagon even though they were all produced at the same time or even before the JJ Abrams blockbuster. I’ve said before that I have no problem with this style as long it is done well and the filmmakers are skilled enough to show you what you need to see. This aspect of Zombie Diaries is fairly hit and miss, which is frustrating at times. It is also extremely lo-fi, which can also get distracting. The story is broken into three groups of survivors, which all happen to be documenting their exploits via handheld cameras. As is always the case with this format, the issue of “why would you film this?” comes into play almost immediately and only one of the groups really addresses it with any believability.
What sets The Zombie Diaries apart from the herd is the direction that it takes in its third act. This disturbing turn is its saving grace. The subject matter of its conclusion – in a movie that was largely forgettable otherwise – stayed with me for days afterward. And it’s not even that the message brought forth by TZD hasn’t been covered before; it has. It was just that I wasn’t expecting it and caught me off guard.
So, there’s two more for the fire.