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Christopher Webster [DVD News 10.11.11] post apocalyptic zombies movie news video

Zombie Diaries 2 hits DVD and Blu-ray today, so we had a quick chat with co-director Michael Bartlett about what it took to raise the dead this time around. What we found out was that Bartlett had a story to tell about the mounting pressure from certain studios to get films out fast and what that means for the final product.

Are you excited to see your film finally get released overseas?

Yes - the international releases are always full of surprises. Last time around (With Zombie Diaries 1) it was the German release that really produced the goods. It was a silver box-set 2-disc edition. They also used the good international artwork as opposed to the ridiculous Hollywood art that was seen in the UK and USA versions, which had nothing to do with the film.

We're hearing there are some differences between the American and Canadian release? What's that about?

Once we had completed production on World of the Dead, we rolled our sleeves up and began work on the post. We were working away to a schedule that Rob Weston (Producer) had agreed with both the financiers (Weinstein and Metrodome), which gave us plenty of time to put a polished product into the marketplace. Then one day, Rob gets a phone call from Weinstein. They asked us to accelerate delivery on the project by quite a bit. Then some e-mails went back and forth, and after much negotiation we decided to stick to the original deadline. At that point Weinstein said "This is the date you will deliver the film and if it isn't finished then we'll finish it for you." We went ahead and tried to meet the deadlines but it was just impossible. As a result the editing was rushed and the sound mix wasn't finished.

The US version actually has gun shots that are out of sync, and if anyone in Region 1 is thinking of buying it, I would say hold on and buy the Canadian version. The reason is that once we got the film out to Weinstein, we were then able to work hard on completing the film properly. There was nothing we could do about the edit, but we had plenty of time to sort the sound out. That was then delivered to our internal sales agents and Metrodome, which means every other version out there, other than the US version, has the proper sound track. To give you an idea of how insane this all was, the music to the film was composed in a week. That includes re-working.

Why did the deadline shift?

None of us still know why Weinstein asked for the film to be delivered in March when it was ultimately released in September. Originally they were talking about a summer release. Then when that changed, we offered to give them the fully finished sound but they wouldn't accept it. My personal opinion is that they were trying to sync the release of our film with the DVD release of Apollo 18, which, itself, had its release dates changed a few times.

Watching your preferred cut now, what are your thoughts?

I have still only seen the UK version, which is the best so far. The guy who did our 5.1 did a great job. What we're waiting for is a Blu-ray version of the film that contains the correct sound. I am not sure if Canada are releasing Blu-ray or not, but France or Germany will probably come through for us in the end.

Overall I think the performances and production design are a step-up from Zombie Diaries 1. The film definitely feels rushed, though, and that's because - guess what - it was. Kev's story about the soldiers was a good way to go as it ties in with Zombie Diaries 1 and the casting of Phil Brodie was an excellent move as he really owns the film. It's still not what it could have been, though. Who knows, maybe we'll do a directors cut in 10 or 15 years when we get the UK rights back (laughs).

Some reviewers have said that the series of films needs to move away from cinema verite and I completely agree with him. The camcorder (Diaries) element should stay but it should be a very small part of the film. The trilogy needs to end in a bang.

We were obviously very lucky with the snow as it adds another obstacle to the soldiers journey. I also think acting wise the film is a massive step up from the first film. Phil Brodie is incredible - you could give him the worst piece of dialog ever written and he'd still make it sound believable. There wasn't as much improvisation as in the first film, so the acting is a little more conventional than they hyper-real approach we used in the first film which I remember garnered criticism such as "But don't you think sometimes a performance can be too natural?" It's a bizarre statement but I understood what they meant - so overall this film should satify more people in that area but I guarantee it won't feel as 'real'.

What are the best and most challenging aspects of working on low budget productions like ZD2?

One thing I really like about "true" low budget is that you control your own destiny. Kevin and I came away from TZD2 (Which was much bigger budget than TZD1) feeling a little like James Wan and Leigh Whannel did about Dead Silence. It wasn't the film it could have been, and that was down to a lot of the interference by powers we couldn't control.

World of the Dead almost didn't happen due to the money not being released in time. We were waiting and waiting for Weinstein and nothing was happening despite the signed contracts. In the end Rob had to get Barry Gordon (The exec who purchased Zombie Diaries 1 and set the deal up with Weinstein before he left to form his own company) to phone them up and threaten to buy the film himself. Then magically the money came through the next day. If we had been forced to wait another 2 weeks the film would have been cancelled. But because we were so far behind schedule due this debacle, we weren't able to dedicate enough time to preparation, and prep is king.

One of my big beefs with World of the Dead is that some of the scenes which could have been tremendous (such as the single-take sequence running through hordes of zombies) were ruined due to the prep. All of the zombie extras in that scene were not allowed to move because the location was chosen at the last minute. We found large pot-holes which could have injured the extras, and there was not enough time to fill them in. So the zombies ended up being very non-threatening and static.

That said, the final scene (shot like a conventional movie) is still stunning no matter which version you watch with, and leads us into the third part of the trilogy where Maddox and Goke will face off - a battle of pure good v pure evil. We're moving away from cinema verite in the final film, but it won't happen soon, as we have other flicks we want to make first.

What is happening with your other two projects: The Paranormal Diaries and Timeless?

Timeless was read by an exec at Inferno who wants to make it. They have committed forward 45% of the budget so we are just trying to find the other 55%. It's hard to find money at the moment, but it is even harder to find a good sales agent who want to back your picture and put money in - so in a sense half the battle is won.

The other film, The Paranormal Diaries, is a film very much like Paranormal Activity but it is a real investigation that took place at Clophill Church in Bedfordshire. Kevin and I have always been very inspired by the stories of places like Borley Rectory and we wanted to assemble a team to go and investigate a real legend. The impetus to make that film actually came from the fact we were fed up with all the sitting around and red-tape that surrounded The Zombie Diaries films. As for other future projects - we plan on working with Rob Weston again. He has proven himself to be an excellent producer unlike a lot of the blaggers you meet.

Anything else you want to mention?

Yes - go and see THE DIVIDE. What a brilliant film! I am friends with Ross Dinerstein and Darren Welch who produced it and they allowed me to see a sneak preview of it months ago. It was one of the best cinema experiences I have ever had and I want to recommend it to everyone who likes the horror genre. I thought Milo Ventimiglia was an absolute revelation in the picture. It is out in January. Tony Noble (Who production designed the film) told me he came out of the cinema 'shaking' and this was the rough cut! I thought he was over-reacting until I saw it.

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William Stewart (9 years ago) Reply

Outstanding film :-) Can't wait to buy a copy.


(9 years ago) Reply

Their film "Timeless" sounds like a very cool concept.


(9 years ago) Reply

Are you serious? I loved Zombie Diaries and pre-ordered ZD2, I'll cut most zombie films slack and it pains me to say it but it's a terrible, terrible film.


mailorderzombie (9 years ago) Reply

I got the UK version about a month ago and just picked up the domestic version in WalMart our of curiosity to see the differences. Whilst there is a big difference in the sound, the edits are almost identical (US version actually is missing special FX shots!). The atmosphere from the first zombie diaries film and the realism are both gone - it's a classic sequel - bigger production value, but clearly rushed and (dare I say it) filmmakers hearts not in it??? Sorry, but it feels that way.


krogius (9 years ago) Reply

The second film definitely felt like a rush-job. And don't get me started on the new Hellraiser and Children of the Corn movies!!!! Weinstein should sell Dimension Extreme to a distributor who cares about the genre.


(9 years ago) Reply

Sounds to me like Bartlet is making excuses for his inability as a filmmaker. He should have stood his ground if the deadline shifted, not pussy'd out and allowed weinsteins to release a rubbish version. Who the heck allows that to happen??


(9 years ago) Reply

they have the money, they call the shots


(9 years ago) Reply

all the above = BORING


j.j. (9 years ago) Reply

I don't think changing around deadlines ever helps a film look at Apollo 18 ... lessons learned NOT


shocbomb (9 years ago) Reply

I Watched this about a month or so ago on a bootleg movie website and I was not that impressed. Sure it was a solid Zombie flick but that's not saying to much now becasue there are so many just shit zombie flicks made over the last 25 years + odds are a half way decent one is going to hit every now and then,plus when it comes to grading zombie flicks my standards are set very low and it's quite easy to get a average to above average rating with all the garbage out there thats made. I think the % now are we get 1 decent zombie film for every 100 made ? All in it was a average zombie film and if you love the zombie genre one you will want to check out if not it won't kill you if you miss it.Don't go in expecting to much now.


(9 years ago) Reply

Mike Bartlett is obsessed with himself, especially on this website that seems like it is run by his best mate. Look at all the name dropping 'I'm friends with the producer and director of this and that'. And then when his movie is released he comes online to make loads of excuses. EPIC FAIL.


magnamaniac (9 years ago) Reply

Did I watch a different film to everyone else. Yes ZD2 was an improvent over ZD1 but.....

My eye's still bled when I watched it.


(9 years ago) Reply

from what I herd Bartlett did not do much on this film and gates did most on it. Bartlett didnt even have anythin to do with the script. The story was good but the FX were really poor


Mark Stones (9 years ago) Reply

I am a huge Zombie and survivor fan, the biggest I know , I studied zombie mythology and voodoohaitian legend for 3 years. I read every novel i can find and calender major releases. This film is terrible. . . The acting is atrocious and the military aspect is ridiculous. I served from 2004 to 2010 as a T.O.O in 42 cmdo so would like to think I have at least a basic knowledge of the militistic world. Regardless of them being voulentary T.A or not any soldier in my charge firing from the hip when ammunition os so scarse would be heavily disciplined. AND WHY THE HELL WAS THE WOMAN FIRING A BROOM HANDLED MAUSER!!!!?????? Some of the Camoflage used was the wrong flecktarn and the noise effect do not match the SA 80 1's used. The visual effects are diabolical, the make up resembled that done by a child for halloween. To be honest the fact that these people get funded just upsets me. There are some fantastic aspiring writers/directors out there who feel geatly attached to this genre but these two amateurs are given an amazing chance and blame deadlines and beurocrasy for a Crap shoddy Unenjoyable film experience. I have never felt this way about a film before. Wait. . . sorry she has just said her grandfather was a collector that is why she has the pistol. . . NO!!! if her grandfather collected and has been in the family for years!! these were used by Werschamcht Officers during the second world war they were not available on the market for collectors untill very recently especially a working semi automatic pistol which would be illegal. ATTENTION TO DETAIL. What a fucking shame.

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