Judge David Johnson thinks Nazi zombies get a bad rap.
What killed them made them stronger.
When this disc landed on my doorstep, I thought…"Oh joy, another zombie Nazi movie." Not only have zombie movies been so thoroughly masticated, now its sub-genres are getting overplayed. This is the second Nazi zombie movie I've seen in as many months.
But it does make sense. What are the two most overused villains in all of entertainment? Zombies and Nazis. Vampires used to be somewhere on that list, but they've since become skinny-jean cool. So we're left with two unique heavies that have been drifting closer and closer together, their Hollywood fates inexorably intertwined. And now the wellspring has burst forth with all manner of undead SS action. The latest, War of the Dead, is looking to make an impact on the burgeoning overflow of its ilk.
The date is 1941. A detachment of American soldiers, led by Captain Martin Stone (Andrew Tiernan) is dispatched to take down a top-secret Nazi location. Along the way, they run into fierce enemy resistance and—like the good Yankee badassess they are—mow them all down. Almost immediately, the dead Nazis spring to life and commence their counterattack, pushing the Americans deep inside a secret bunker where they discover an even darker secret.
And so it's game-on, a sustained bout between our G.I. Joes and wave after wave of Nazi zombie scum. Here's the straight dope: War of the Dead is a whole lot more fun than it has any right to be, and might just singe-handedly keep the bloated corpse of undead-Nazi moviemaking adrift. Granted, my expectations were zeroed out and I was walking into this thing with a piss-poor attitude, but that makes writer/director Marko Makilaakso's effort all the more impressive.
What separates War of the Dead from its brethren? A ton of action that's easily discernible, because it's not happening in the pitch black. From the drop, the mayhem kicks in, with zombies up and at 'em. It's essentially straight-out war until the finale, a combination of nicely executed fisticuff choreography, a driving soundtrack, and surprisingly enough I didn't want to see the good guys die. It's no small feat to make zombie cannon fodder worth giving a damn about, so chalk that up as another win for Makilaakso.
The zombies themselves are pretty decent. They don't lumber around like zoned-out weirdos. Much like Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, these baddies are juiced up and active. They fight back and employ strategy, forcing our heroes to approach them with tactics more advanced than simply "point at their withered heads and pull the trigger over and over." This ends up in some effective action set-pieces and a good deal of tension.
I am, of course, grading on a curve. You still have to be in the narrow demographic not already burnt out on zombie movies, while also being down for some period action/horror. But compared to its under-performing peers, War of the Dead emerges victorious.
Presented in 2.35:1/1080p high definition widescreen, this Blu-ray transfer is absolutely gorgeous, razor-sharp the whole way through. Despite much of the action taking place in the bunker or in the woods at night, the detail pops, ensuring we aren't squinting to see who bashed whose head in with a rifle butt. An effective DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track delivers a clean, aggressive sound mix, with English SDH subtitles for those who need 'em. Very little in the way of extras. Just a trailer and a standard def DVD copy.
A modest surprise, War of the Dead treads well-worn ground, but treads
it well. Not Guilty.
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