Louis does Toronto After Dark Festival – Review of War of the Dead

It’s the middle of the Second World War and a group of American and Finnish soldiers are sent to attack a German bunker.  In doing so they stumble upon one of the most horrible and closely guarded secrets of the Nazi regime.   The unit’s mission having now changed, the small band of men try to both survive the onslaught and destroy the bunker from which they sprang as they now face an enemy more terrible and terrifying – the undead.

This is a dark film.  Literally and figuratively. The movie takes place over a single night with the final shot being the first light of the next morning. The lighting is such that you can (mostly) see what is unfolding onscreen. Except for the bunkers, I was never sure if what I saw was soundstage or built set.  I found the sets to be accurate, almost to the point of distraction as the director seemed to want to show every type and style of period setpiece he could come up with.

The acting is competent with veteran British actors Andrew Teirnan (Survivors) and Mark Winggett (The Bill) working alongside Finnish actor Samuel Vauramo  and strongman Jouko Ahola.  If their performances fail to deliver, I find fault with the writer and director first as I didn’t find myself caring about any of them.

Save Magdalena Górska’s brief and confusing foray into the film’s narrative, there isn’t much that one can find sympathetic about the plight they find themselves in.  The problem is twofold – the first one being the characters themselves are relatively humorless.  Soldiers tend to joke, even when the situation is hopeless.  This movie desperately needed some comic relief in it somewhere.  The second problem is that the Nazi-Zombies were neither Nazis or Zombies but captured Russian soldiers who were experimented on.

The opening shot is of a solider of unknown origin, in a frock, getting shot and turning into undead.  The rest of the movie they are in uniform, side cap and all attacking our heroes.  Most have been given special powers of speed, strength and endurance, but seem unable to speak.  Still they manage coordinated attacks, leaping from the ground to the top of a building in a single leap, breaking doors and windows yet somehow unable to keep up with a car moving at a walking pace.

Dead Snow” this is not. It isn’t “Outpost” either. It really isn’t comparable to any of sub-genre of Nazi-Zombie films even though that is the impression the trailer gives.  The narrative is a bit hard to follow as the main characters tend to wander aimlessly for a bit. After dying one by one, the final few then decide to call in an airstrike from the middle of the bunker full of super undead.  Even as a horror fan I found this quite hard to accept as a legitimate way to handle the problems the plot gave itself.   Much of it felt forced, out of place and fake.  Even though, the gore is well done it is not enough to save this film from itself.

I’d wait for it to come out on cable.