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September 22, 2012

Movie Review: War of the Dead (2011)

Directed by Marko Makilaakso

Starring Andrew Tiernan, Mikko Leppilampi and Samuel Vauramo

A group of Finnish and American soldiers travel deep into the Russian forests on a secret mission to destroy a Nazi bunker where strange “anti-death” experiments have been taking place. Following an ambush en route to their target, they find themselves fighting the same soldiers they had just killed previously, only now they are a rabid, zombie-like enemy. Much harder to kill because, well, their already dead. Their search-and-destroy mission soon dissolves into nothing more then a mad scramble for survival as they face wave after wave of Nazi and Russian zombies alike. With the help of a captured Russian soldier they finally find the bunker and face some more packs of undead Nazis and make a last desperate plan to destroy the bunker and hopefully make it out alive before the air-strike arrives.

Making a movie that mixes zombies and Nazis always has potential in my book, you just cant come up with a better villainous combination then that. Its like peanut butter and chocolate for horror fans. Movies like Dead Snow showed the potential of this mixture. Unfortunately, everything that Dead Snow was, War of the Dead isn't. I am not going to say its a bad movie, I am just saying its not a very good zombie movie. The fire-fighting and combat sequences are well shot and realistic enough, they do succeed in giving the illusion of a European war zone during World War 2. The only thing is, the most important aspect of the movie, the zombies, just completely fell flat. The only thing that differentiated them from the good guys were the white contact lenses the actors wore. And since the entire movie is shot in near darkness, what the movie ended up being was just a mass of combat scenes between a bunch of guys in military uniforms, with the zombies being the guys that did a lot of growling. There were no make up effects whatsoever, very little blood (I don't count CGI blood, sorry) and absolutely no gore to speak of. These are hallmarks of zombie movies, absolutely essential ingredients that were simply left out. The suspense factor disappeared by about the 30 minute mark as a repeating sequence had been established. Soldiers get surrounded by zombies, soldiers have fist-fight with zombies, soldiers shoot zombies. Move on to the next scene and repeat. And no attempts were made to shock or scare the audience, as if the mere idea of zombies would be enough to keep the audience interested.

For some reason a lot of emphasis is put on these strange keys that are found, implying that they unlock some kind of important secret which will be revealed eventually. When they finally breach the bunker and find the lock that the mysterious key fits into, all it does is release a lid off of an operating table.....and that's it. Really? Hmmm.

It's certainly not the worst zombie movie ever made (See Santa Claus versus The Zombies review). The cinematography is actually pretty slick in spite of the low lighting conditions throughout. There's just not enough there to call it a solid entry into the genre though. I'd rate it middle of the zombie pack at best.

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