Soldiers of the Damned, 2015.
Directed by Mark Nuttall.
Starring Gil Darnell, Miriam Cooke, Lucas Hansen, Tom Sawyer, Mark Fountain and Nicky Bell.
The Eastern Front, 1944. A German Army Major is ordered to escort a female scientist into a mysterious Romanian forest on fear of death for him and his men…
World War 2 horrors on film usually appear in a realistic, biographical format. Hardly surprising, with the real life horror of warfare not needing any further fantastic elements to beef up the nightmare count. However, when filmmakers do veer away from this remit, the results can be surprising and extremely entertaining – the Norwegian Dead Snow and the Swedish Iron Sky both being examples of how to bring a B-movie sensibility to the history books.
Soldiers of the Damned is a far more serious film than either of those two, but no less enjoyable for that. Taking in an occult mystery that contains plenty of believable insights into the Nazi love of mysticism and perverted spirituality, it provides a supernatural genre run through the woods.
Focusing on Major Kurt Fleischer’s (Gil Darnell) orders from SS top brass to escort Professor Anna Kappel (Miriam Cooke) to a mysterious forest beyond enemy lines, the plot steadily builds up the tension and drama. Fleisher doesn’t have any idea of what’s going on – just that he and his team will be in big trouble if the mission fails. Just what the mission is – to retrieve an ancient relic of special significance only becomes apparent after all sorts of apparitions and visions have entered the frame.
What, on first glance, looks to be a dumb horror dress-up show turns out to be far more effective than that. There is a genuine sense of mystery played out in the woodland, and the two leads Darnell and Cooke imbue their characters and the plot as a whole with a real urgency and drama. By the time the so-called zombie immortals start hitting the screen the movie has succeeded in drawing in the audience in to its beguiling web.
The real success of the film is just that, the ability to play up the mysterious elements without needing any unnecessary explanation. There is a lot of rampaging and panic-stricken running around, but when the supernatural elements start getting weirder and weirder, its good to know there aren’t any easy answers.
Also, the all British cast mostly play their German characters with no attempt at dodgy accents – I could only make out one or two – which is on balance is generally a good idea and makes it less easy to break the spell.
An enjoyable first feature then from director Nuttall, who displays a confident ability to set the mood and scene for an unsettling slice of period horror.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.