War of the Dead, 2011.
Starring Andrew Tiernan, Mikko Leppilampi, Samuel Vauramo, Mark Wingett, Andreas Wilson and Jouko Ahola.
A platoon of soldiers encounter a horde of Nazi zombies after being driven deep into a Russian forest.
I don’t think that George A. Romero knew when he titled his cheeky zombie flick Night of the Living Dead (as well as its sequels) that he would spark a revolution among filmmakers to simply title their zombie movie “Insert Word of the Dead”. With so many of these “of the Dead” movies in existence, it’s easy for a lot of them to slip past your radar. I mean, who’s to say that Flight of the Dead is better than Survival of the Dead based on the title alone? The point I’m trying to make is that by giving this film the incredibly unimaginative title War of the Dead, I was already placed into a relatively negative mindset with preconceptions that it would be a generic run-of-the-mill zombie movie.
Before we find the answer to that question, I will start off by saying that the film looks great. You could be forgiven for thinking that this is a 50 million dollar movie rather than a low budget zombie flick. Everything from the location, to set dressing and costume design, all looks stunning and a lot of work clearly went into getting the look right. It all feels very authentic and the filters used during post-production give the movie a gloomy look which really adds to the atmosphere.
Having said that, I don’t think they quite got the look and feel of their undead right. When you watch Shaun of the Dead, you know who the zombies are and who the humans are. Same goes for Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead etc. The directors and designers made sure that we as an audience know who to root for and who to be afraid of. However War of the Dead seemed to miss this boat by quite some distance – whether they are dead or living, everyone just looks the same. There are times in the movie where our heroes are fighting both living and not-so-living creatures and I couldn’t tell them apart – which is a real shame because it takes you out of the action.
The action itself is actually quite good but is let down by lazy direction and editing. If you are a fan of the “shaky-wobble-cam” action style that was popularised by the Bourne trilogy then you won’t find much here to complain about. But for me it makes the film incredibly hard to watch and even worse, very difficult to follow. At times I hadn’t the first clue what was going on, who was fighting who and who was winning. True choreography is a dead art (although if you believe the critics, The Raid could be about to give it the kiss of life).
But I suppose with characters this bland it doesn’t really matter who wins and who loses. The film features one scene where they try to give some backstory for each character but it just feels so forced and comes off as little more than time filler. The bad guys are never really established either so it’s not like we as an audience have anything to root against.
However, War of the Dead is not trying to be a character driven masterpiece – it’s trying to be a zombie film that will entertain. Which brings us back to our original question: was my negative mind set ill-conceived? Well unfortunately not because at the very root of War of the Dead’s problems is that it is pretty boring. The film feels so bland, unoriginal and lifeless (no pun intended) and while the idea of ‘Zombie Nazis’ may sound cool, it was done a lot better in Dead Snow.
Bottom line, War of the Dead is just as generic as the title would suggest. It’s a film that relies too heavily on its premise (zombies in World War 2) to mask its massive flaws. A fan of the zombie genre will find little to complain about but nothing to get excited over either. The setting and look of the movie are impressive, but everything else is sub-standard.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.