Welcome to another Two Brothers Review. For the uninitiated, this column is a co-production by me, Andrew Young, and my brother Nathan. I write a full review and then Nathan gives his thoughts at the end. So what do the two of us review? Movies, of course. Sometimes we watch a film and we both have the urge to say something about it. Sometimes, we bash the crap out of a film until it begs for mercy. Then we bash it some more. Other times, we find ourselves morbidly obsessed with a movie and have to dissect it. Either way, we’re here to talk about a movie so please, read on.
Once again, we’re switching things up with our review. We usually seek out the latest direct-to-video movie with recognizable stars and too much money spent on a lesser return. But this time, we thought we play a game using our VOD service. That’s right, we played “On Demand” Roulette. And just like Russian Roulette, the results were deadly. Our pick for this week’s review is the Finnish Horror Action film, War of the Dead, directed by Marko Mäkilaakso and starring Andrew Tiernan. This film was first released in late 2011, making it’s world premiere at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. It was later released on DVD the following Spring by Momentum Pictures. After watching it, I really have to say that I hope that Momentum didn’t spend too much on acquiring this flick as I don’t think it was a good investment. I mean, sure, I watched the film but that was on a dare. I don’t know if folks out there would seek out this film willingly.
The story focuses on a small platoon of American and Finnish soldiers during World War II traveling along the Russian border. They’re hungry and tired but they’ve got to take out a specific bunker close by. Their attempt at taking the bunker is unsuccessful as they are beaten back into the woods. Shortly after this, they are attacked by the soldiers they just killed during the recent battle. These soldiers, obviously zombies, are unrelenting and force the platoon into Russian territory. As their men are picked off – some killed, others infected – the survivors end up doubling back and entering the bunker where they find out how this whole horror has come about. Some explosion, a bunch of dead zombies and one destroyed bunker later and the fight’s over. But has anyone survived to tell the tale?
After reading this short synopsis, one might think that I was a little harsh on the film as it sounds like a pretty straight forward zombie movie. And what I didn’t mention is that the Nazis show up. Zombies and Nazis? That sounds like an awesome combo, right? Well, I’m sorry to say that in this case, it isn’t. I have given you a very basic retelling of the film’s plot. That’s because if I was to recount the multiple times this film doubles back and goes over the same story beats, I would shoot myself in the head. This film is 90% running at a snails pace. The zombies show up pretty early on in the film and the main characters are on the run from them….when they’re not stopping and hiding in a small cabin or driving a car at 10 miles per hour or randomly finding their prisoner’s ex-girlfriend in a closet. The film starts out with a very quick set up and the action begins. But it feels like they blow their load too soon. They kill off too many of the soldiers too quickly. This forces them to introduce new characters, like the enemy prisoner and his ex-girlfriend. The problem is that we didn’t know those first characters long enough to care about their deaths and now it’s too far into the film for us to invest our time in new characters that will probably also end up dead. It’s a tricky thing when making a horror film to figure out how much time is enough for the audience to relate to the characters. But even though it’s not an exact science, it is evident that this film got this formula wrong. The dialogue and performances leave much to be desired as well.
It is always important to remember when sitting down to watch a shlock action/horror film that the acting and script will not be a masterpiece. You’re suppose to look at the film as junk food entertainment and nothing more. But there is a level of quality one must shoot for even in a shlock piece like this. Most of the lines are cheesy and the characters are cliche wartime cutouts. Both facts are forgivable if the actors presenting these stereo types have the right amount of charisma to pull it off. And that’s where this film is really hurting. The actors lack of belief and faith in the material is right on the surface. They don’t pull me in because they don’t seem to have convinced themselves that this film is worth it. Andrew Tiernan plays Captain Martin Stone, the devil-may-care American soldier who’s suppose to lead his crew to victory but there’s nothing dynamic about his performance. He doesn’t evoke the standard hero needed to tell this story. He seems to be phoning it in and appears more interested in getting out of the rain than away from any zombies. Jouko Ahola appears to be trying a bit harder as Captain Niemi but isn’t given enough time in his role. As for the rest of the cast, they appear to be nothing more than cannon fodder and exposition deliverers. This film is lacking in heart and it gives nothing for the viewer to care about.
I know I may sound a bit too hard on these guys but I feel that they had a chance to make a truly enjoyable film but instead made a mediocre one just because they could not commit to either being a shlock film or a serious one. I don’t think this film is worth watching again and it is definitely not worth paying for. If you do want to check it out, it is available on DVD and Blu ray and some Video on Demand services.
So that’s my review of War of the Dead. Now it’s time for Nathan to speak his mind. Printed below are direct quotes from him made during and after watching War of the Dead. His opinions and thoughts do not reflect Geek Hard or its associates, but I thought that they should be printed to provide an honest movie-goer’s take on the film. Some of his comments may be seen as offensive. Others might not make sense at all. I have included them all to paint the picture of his thoughts and feelings on this film. Read on.
The beginning of the film reminds me of Goonies because there’s someone screaming and someone singing opera music.
These guys aren’t really zombies. They’re more like shaved German werewolves that like to wrestle.
It’s like the makers of this film went to a school yard, saw some kids playing and asked them what they were doing. “We’re playing our favourite game. World War Two and there’s zombie werewolf wrestlers and my guy always lives.” The filmmakers thought the story sounded awesome, so they waited for the kids to grow up and then they shot this stupid movie.
Every character in this movie is an asshole except for this one young russian guy who’s always apologizing to the dead guys. How about apologizing to the viewers?
I don’t remember any of the characters names except for that girl, Tasha. At one point, she runs off for no reason. She tried to abandon the movie and failed. It’s like she said, “Okay, the only way I’m coming back is if I could be a braindead idiot who dies immediately.”
I don’t know what they started with. There was no plot. There were no characters, there wasn’t even any light. “Just keep filming. Somethings gotta come…..somethings gotta come……okay, we ran out of film.”
The getaway car drives at 10 miles per hour. They’d be better off on foot. The russian kid offers to put more gasoline in the car. But what does he do with it? He dumps it out on the ground and lights it on fire. Well, at least we can see the car now.
This movie ripped off everything. They ripped off the Mummy. They ripped off the Goonies. They even ripped off Guy Pierce’s face!
No lighting at all in this movie. There was no light. There’s four character on the screen and all I can see is Tasha. They run through tunnels. The lights go on. The lights go off. The shitty movie’s still there.
The forrest looked like clay animation. It was like ParaNorman. That’s why the car is slow. It’s animation.
When the Guy Pierce guy dies, I thought he was gonna come back as a good zombie werewolf. Like this movie’s version of Blade. But he didn’t come back as Blade. He was just another douche in a leather jacket.
The music at the end doesn’t match the movie at all. “Hey, you ever wonder what happened to that lost Evanesence track? Well we found it”. They put at the end of this movie.
I really didn’t like the guy in the movie, what was his name? Oh that’s right, that was everybody in this film. All I can remember is Tasha.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!