Undead nazis are fast becoming the cinematic go-to bad guy. It makes sense combinging one of the greatest evils the world has ever seen with the menace of them returning from the grave, hungry for flesh.
One might be tempted to think this is a formula that you simply can’t get wrong…
Boils and ghouls, I give you the closing film from the Friday night of Glasgow Frightfest, War of the Dead, billed as the most expensive movie ever to be made in Lithuania.
The film comes with the following synopsis:
“In 1939 ‘anti-death’ medical experiments were performed on captured Russian soldiers by Gestapo officers in the opening salvos of World War II. Two years later allied Finnish and American forces are on a mission to seize an underground enemy bunker on the Soviet border – but they must face attack by a far deadlier force – the flesh-hungry victims of those SS experiments.”
This was one of the films of GFF that I was waiting for most. The trailer and the poster look tremendous and the inclusion of former World’s Strongest Man, Jouko Ahola, who can clearly be seen on the poster, ramped up my anticipation of this movie.
Despite being a Lithuanian movie helmed by Lithuanian director Marko Makilaasko, War of the Dead is filmed in English and features Andrew Tiernan (Dead Cert, 300, Bathory, The Bunker) in a leading role alongside a largely Finnish cast.
The inclusion of English actors taking on the roles of Americans, and the resultant poor accents, left me cringing somewhat and I find myself curious as to what our American cousins will make of this aspect of the film.
It was commented on that many of the undead aren’t actually German/ nazis at all. This is explained in the opening introduction to the movie and ought not to give the viewer too much cause for concern. Perhaps the running, jumping, tree-climbing, roof-scaling, fighting undead will give you pause for thought but that’s entirely at your own discretion…
War of the Dead has clearly had some money splashed on it; filmed in Lithuania, the location is entirely in keeping with the storyline, the costumes and weaponry are consistent with the time period and the set pieces are convincing enough. Moreover, the score is provided by Joel Goldsmith, son of composer Jerry Goldsmith. Goldsmith Jnr has provided the score for a number of horror movies over the last 30 years such as Watchers, Monster!; and coincidentally, the score for Call of Duty 3…
The reason that I mention Call of Duty is that many of the AndyErupts team felt that was what War of the Dead was like, a video game. There was little in the way of any real discernable plot for the movie and the characters lacked any real depth. The undead attacks seemed to come in waves, like a game… and just like any game, there was a boss to be defeated; and this particular boss came in the form of the zombified Ahola. The final battle between Tiernan’s character and the undead Ahola raised quite a few eyebrows and several chuckles within the Glasgow Film Theatre. This undead monster and the ageing, grizzled and burnt out “American” engaging in hand-to-hand combat was ridiculous enough but when Ahola took to going aerial like a wrestler coming off the top turnbuckle, my mouth was agog.
War of the Dead is a perfect example of style over substance. It is very much an action-driven horror and as stated, plays out in a fashion not entirely dissimilar to that of a video game with waves of enemy hordes to be defeated, thin plot, big explosions and an intimidating end boss.
Although I didn’t hate War of the Dead, I had considerably higher expectations than the film was able to deliver on. If you’re looking for nazi-zombie horror, stick with Outpost or Dead Snow.