Outpost (film, 2008)
A review of a film with Nazi zombies in it. From Death Ray 16.
THREE AND A HALF STARS
Director: Steve Barker
Writer: Rae Brunton
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Julian Wadham, Richard Brake, Paul Blair, Brett Fancy
Mercenaries versus Zombie Nazis. It’s really that simple.
Wow, it’s low-budget month for me – Lost Boys II, Starship Troopers III, and this supernatural chiller from our very own Greater Britland, as we call Blightly in Death Ray‘s parallel reality.
Outpost holds many similarities to Neil Marshall’s Dog Soldiers and sundry other recent Brit horrors – a bunch of soldiers face off against supernatural menace, but that’s no bad thing. In Outpost, it is a band of modern-day mercenaries hired by a shady corporate stooge, fighting zombie SS troopers at a bunker in war-torn eastern Europe. I won’t spoil the Nazi superscience origin of the shambling fascists; it’s not startlingly original, but it works well. That’s one of the good things about the film, its A-plot is tightly packed into a nutritious narrative nut.
There are many other good things about Outpost, not least the moody cinematography by Gavin Struthers. This guy’s a TV lenser mostly, but his work here marks him out as someone to watch, his use of light making the film look much more expensive than it actually is. Also on the production front, the costuming, make-up and set design are (in the main) excellent. This visual gloss elevates Outpost way above the standard for low budget fare. In fact, it’s so good in those regards that I’m going to pick on the little problems it does have.
The film suffers from stilted acting in some scenes that speaks of inexperience on the helmer’s part. The action stuff is just dandy, but it’s the little personal moments that don’t quite gel. On a suspension of disbelief note, sometimes the bunker looks too good. All the bulbs work, there’s petrol in the generator, paper on the desks… These things would just be heaps of rust and mulch after 60 years. No amount of artful moisture staining makes up for the suspiciously good repair of all on show.
But, come on Guy, who cares, right? It’s about zombies and shit fighting soldiers, eh? Well, there’s a bit of a problem there, too. These zombies really are unstoppable. Bar the hope of a Doctor Who-style technobabble solution to their predicament, our multi-national sell-swords are powerless. This lack of any ability to harm the Nazi undead at all leaves Outpost lacking in tension in the middle act. Let’s note that the similar-ish WWI-Germans-underground flick The Bunker avoided this with the addition of a corporeal threat, while Dog Soldiers’ werewolves could at least be hurt. And there’s a subplot about religion that is tooth-achingly dull, but hey, in low budget land, where crappo main plots are the norm, this is a very minor crime.
Let’s be nice, because it works out in the end, and it’s Ray Stevenson’s effortless turn as merc captain DC that pulls it all together. With a weak lead, Outpost could oh-so-easily have fallen apart, (like wet, 60-year-old paper actually does, okay?). Stevenson is the rock upon which the Outpost stands firm. The big Geordie’s star quality, and the film-makers’ understanding that this concept really would not stretch to more than 90-minutes, makes Outpost the pick of the current low budget crop. This is the promising work of tomorrow’s industry stalwarts, not amateur hour or the last gasps of the once-good. Its own reputation precedes it, originally a DTV release, it was so well received in the States that it secured a theatrical release in the UK and Europe. A future cult classic, tomorrow’s directors will soon be secretly sneaking this into the DVD player while their parents are out.