Monday, June 17, 2013

Horror Film Review

War of the Dead (2011):  WWII and the undead.  We all know what that means...Nazi zombies!  I can't think of a bad Nazi zombie flick, and there are a few out there.  In this case, it's not only not bad, there is a fair amount of awesomeness. 

The road leading to the awesomeness, however, is paved with all manner of oddities and confusion.  We start with Nazi docs in a bunker in Russia experimenting.  Shocker, I know.  They succeed in creating super strong, super fast soldiers.  Trouble is, they have to die first.  Even more trouble, they're uncontrollable and attack everyone and everything in an insatiable frenzy. 

Cut to a special squad of Finnish and American soldiers tasked with seeking out said bunker and...I'm not entirely sure.  The Finnish captain in charge of the squad, Niemi (Jouko Ahola) knows but he ain't telling.  His American counterpart, Captain Stone (Andrew Tiernan), isn't pleased and doesn't hide it.  Within minutes, a firefight erupts with what I think are Russian soldiers but could have been Germans (one of the confusing bits).  Soon thereafter, the enemy dead come back and the squad hauls ass the other way.  The survivors, Niemi and his second in command Lt. Laasko (Mikko Leppilampi), Stone, and young Russian soldier Kolya (Samuel Vauramo) take refuge in an abandoned farmhouse, which is promptly overrun.  They escape, run into Kolya's ex-girlfriend, are overrun again, and ultimately stumble across the Nazi bunker where the final battle takes place.

Oddities...there's this amulet-thing that Kolya's obsessed with but why (and what the hell the amulet is) never gets explained.  The zombies are preternaturally fast, like 28 Days Later-fast, and can climb ladders and open doors.  I know.  Feels wrong.  Also, most of the squad members are dressed in leather trench coats and tote Tommy guns.  Weird, but it's a groovy, Captain Jack Harkness kind of look.  After Niemi turns, he becomes this uber-zombie that just won't die.  Well, die for good.

Finally, there's a scene that's an homage to Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It's so cool and unexpected that my jaw dropped.  Laasko and Kolya are on the run in the bunker's maze of hallways when they encounter the original Nazi doctor responsible for the undead carnage.  He's gross and awful and we expect an epic confrontation.  Instead, Laasko pulls a knife and from twenty feet, buries it in the doc's brain.  Just like when Indy shoots the big dude with the sword.  Excellent.


Acting:  For the most part, quite good.  Niemi is over the top, though.  Interestingly, Leppilampi looks like a young Dennis Quaid, Vauramo looks like a younger Jake Gyllenhaal, and Tiernan looks like an overweight Kiefer Sutherland. 
Story:  We're not talking Tolstoy here, but it's a solid premise well envisioned.
Direction:  No moss gathered during the 86 minute running time.  The action is practically nonstop.
Production Values:  Made for only a million euros, it's technically a low-budget flick yet you'll be hard-pressed to find any aspect to support that label.  The location shooting in Lithuania went a long way to provide the realism any WWII film needs. 
Gore/FX:  Surprisingly little in the way of serious nastiness.  The CGI explosions are, unfortunately, very obviously CGI.  The zombie make-up is decent.
Scares:  Not what they were going for. 
Ending:  A couple of survivors and a company of Russian soldiers.  Not terribly satisfying but I've seen much, much worse.
Verdict:  Should you see War of the Dead?  Kylla (that means "yes" in Finnish).  It was fun...inasmuch as Nazis, war, human experimentation, and the undead can be fun, of course.

Rating:  4 out of 5

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