XLrator Media // 2012 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 2nd, 2012
The Fourth Reich rises.
And my attention span plummets.
From new label XLrator Media -- which has released vaguely interesting, if ultimately underwhelming films -- comes a vaguely interesting, if underwhelming sequel. In 2008, writer/director Steve Barker made his debut with the badass little horror gem Outpost, in which an eccentric researcher hires a band of mercenaries to unearth a forgotten Nazi bunker that was home to all sorts of occult-driven experimentation. This tense, atmospheric, gore-filled excursion had its flaws, but watching grizzled mercs fight ghost Nazis turned out to be a frighteningly fun ride.
Flash forward four years. Barker, having apparently done nothing in the interim, taps the same well with Outpost: Black Sun. On the surface, the follow-up has a decent amount going for it: a satisfactory budget, an interesting style, and a story about unstoppable Nazi zombies. On paper, this project looks like a winner. In practice, I am fast asleep.
As the story goes, NATO is moving in hot on a remote part of Eastern Europe. Reports are lethal force soldiers have been laying waste to the land, killing everything that moves. Things are so dire, a monster bombing run has been scheduled to clean house. Meanwhile, an enterprising young Nazi hunter (Catherine Steadman, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) has landed at the outpost, looking to unravel the mystery of a German scientist who apparently created a way to immortalize the army of the Third Reich. She and her comrade (Richard Coyle, Coupling) meet up with a detachment of soldiers, but before they can make a break out of the bunker, they're besieged by the perpetrators: an undead Nazi zombie horde.
Sounds sort of cool, right? Having enjoyed the original, I was primed to welcome my Nazi zombie overlords and soak up some righteous B-movie mayhem. Alas, somewhere along the way, Barker and his creative team forgot they were making a B-movie and crawled a bit too far up their own butts. Outpost: Black Sun is a self-serious chore, lacking fun, energy, and most importantly a clear line of sight to the action.
My everlasting memory of this film is the fact that's nigh-opaque, suffering from serious Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem-itis. Sure, everyone's running around in a creepy bunker, but couldn't the Nazis have come up with a decent strategy for industrial corridor illumination? Apparently not. The result is a feature-length excursion into obstructed viewing, where everything from simple dialogue exchanges to full-blown action is shrouded in cinematic mud.
Not that we're missing anything. Outpost: Black Sun plods. Oh, it opens promising enough, as our Nazi hunter gathers some intel and the supernatural mystery begins to unfold. But once the action shifts to the actual outpost and the zombies begin sprouting up, momentum weirdly slows. The tension just isn't there, partly because it's a chore to make out what's happening and partly because the action is so poorly choreographed. Battle scenes are either static shootouts or melee encounters that happen just outside of the frame.
It's especially disappointing because I eat up movies that pit a small band of rag tag heroes against overwhelming odds. Here, our protagonists are so one-dimensionally boring, when they do inevitably bite the big one, we are summarily unaffected. I'll admit, once we hit the grand finale, where our heroes square off against the big bad, I was impressed by the gall of Barker and co-writer Rae Brunton to lift gags straight from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But it was refreshing to see the screen light up long enough for me to actually comprehend what the heck was going on.
XLrator's Blu-ray treatment sports a 2.40:1/1080p transfer that has its moments, primarily when the darkness lifts. The big scene at the end is betrayed by some cheap visual effects, but the makeup work is consistently impressive and the HD treatment pushes it nicely. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track gets a solid enough workout from the noisy action and composer Theo Green's overly dramatic score. One bonus feature: a five-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.
A third film prequel, Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz -- written by Brunton and shot by Steve Barker's producing partner Kieran Parker before the sets of this film were disassembled -- is already in the can for a 2013 release; leaving the door open for Barker for a possible fourth film. That is, if you haven't already lost interest in Nazi zombies by then.
Guilty. Haul the accused to the Zombie Nuremberg Trials.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: XLrator Media
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2012
MPAA Rating: Not Rated