TADFF 2011: WAR OF THE DEAD Review
War of the Dead has a troubled past. It has changed lead actors a couple times. Two production companies lost their bankrolls and pulled out. It changed names a couple times as well. But, like a good zombie, it just wouldn't die and eventually shambled its way into the Toronto Underground Cinema the other night during Zombie Appreciation Day.
A platoon of Finnish and American soldiers venture deep into the forests of Finland to find a secret Nazi military base. Unbeknownst to them the Nazis have been conducting experiments on Russian soldiers deep in the bowels of this bunker. Experiments in anti-death. Before they reach the bunker they engage in a firefight with German soldiers then a wave of zombie soldiers 'Finnish' off most of the survivors until three soldiers- American Martin Stone and Finns Lieutenant Laakso and Captain Niemi- and a cameraman's assistant remain. But there is little time to rest as wave after wave of zombie soldiers chase after them.
So after a myriad of setbacks, delays, and changes is War of the Dead any good? No. No it is not. There simply is so much wrong with the film that all I can really say about it to redeem it at all is that there is a lot of action and a lot of zombies. It meets the quota well enough. The movie simply falls into the same run of the mill action film traps like many others before it.
Yes, the movie happens during the night but that is no reason for not having well lit scenes so we can see what is going on. Speaking of which. Hold. The. Fucking. Camera. Still. Time and time again we weep and gnash our teeth at countless filmmakers that feel that movie the camera enhances the action. It. Does. Not. Couldn't make out a damn thing in melee scenes of War of the Dead. And why is everything on fire, all the time? Even after our soldiers have gone indoors to get out of the rain from an oncoming storm- thunder and lightning at the same time? For fuck's sake- afterwards everything is still fire. As they pull into a village, the young Russian soldier they found, Kolya, says to them that he knows this village and they will be safe. All the while the graveyard with makeshift crosses is on fire. Where in the world have burning crosses ever been a symbol of safety? Are you daft man?
As far as story goes never does it really commit to finding out the nature of the experiments. They uncover it alright. Literally pull the lid off of it. But then they go off to fight more zombies. Hey, you left the lid open. This thing could get out- ooooooooooh, you want a sequel. There are a number of characters that contribute some sort of element to the story. The one Finnish soldier that could perhaps explain what the true nature of the experiments is but he dies in the first battle. That camera man, who films out in the open during battle I might add - who is documenting the mission but he dies in the first zombie wave. These were the little things that could have 'fleshed out' the story a bit but were abandoned in the first 15 minutes or so.
Writing a negative review about a film that has overcome so many obstacles is like loading a starters pistol with real bullets and as the final marathon runner comes limping across the finish line with the pulled hamstring and a Yorkshire terrier locked in a death grip around one ankle you shoot them in the head for coming in last. Sadly I must because by no means is War of the Dead a well made movie. It is passable entertainment at best but by no means does it do anything that gives merit to the zombie genre.
War of the Dead is just so average. It was cool in concept but the end result is severely lacking.