War of the Dead (2011) – On DVD from 28th May

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WAR OF THE DEAD (aka Stone’s War) (2011)
Directed by Marko Mäkilaakso
Written by Marko Mäkilaakso and Barr B. Potter

The year is 1941 and an American elite force have teamed up with Finnish soldiers to destroy a secret Russian bunker. Organising a raid before dawn, the soldiers set up camp for the night but walk straight into Russian gunfire. Half of their unit are wiped out but it isn’t long before they hear the sound of gunshot again, however this time the Russian’s seem to be firing against someone other than them. Only when a dead soldier of their own rises up from the dead do they realise they have a new enemy on their radar and they must escape the zombie hordes and complete the mission before it’s too late!

As some of you may know, Hitler was deeply interested in experimenting with the occult and various sciences such as anti-gravity. In War of the Dead, we see the SS at the height of the war injecting Russian prisoners with their anti-death serum which would kill and re-animate their prisoners into fully functioning undead soldiers. Not long after, Hitler orders the testing to be abolished along with all records of it’s existence. A few years down the line, the only evidence of these experiments are  clockwork keys used to open the testing equipment in the secret bunker. It just so happens one of these keys finds it’s way into the pocket of a Finnish soldier after stealing it from a cabin in the woods.

Filmed in Lithuania, War of the Dead looks gritty, dirty and authentic. The soldiers are stalking through the forest in a bid to execute the enemy Russians but when the forest becomes overrun with the undead, it’s the last place these war heroes want to be. The villages and underground bunker also make fine locations with their rustic wood and brutal metal interiors, lit up mostly by flickering orange flames in the wake of an assault. The film’s orchestrated score is pounding and intense, racking up the action scenes in which the soldiers battle the crazed, blood-hungry zombies and the soldiers close escapes from a painful death.

The cast are fantastic in their roles, even though the script isn’t too engaging or well written.  Andrew Tiernen, who’s previously starred in Life on Mars, The Pianist and as deformed hunchback Ephialtes in 300, stars as Captain Martin Stone, an American soldier who’s unit is allied with the Finns to take out the Russian secret bunker. Former World’s Strongest Man, Jouko Ahola, stars as Captain Niemi of the Finnish squad, who’s determination to succeed in life doesn’t exactly die with him in death….  Mikko Leppilampi as Finnish Lieutenant Laakso and Samuel Veuramo as Russian soldier Kolya round off the main cast who put in a commended effort into their parts. Samuel Veuramo comments during the special features on how he dislikes horror films but this young actor certainly proves he has the cojones to star in one and with his lightening fast moves he could do pretty well in an action flick.

I would class War of the Dead as more of a survival adventure horror backdropped by a woodland warfare environment. Whilst there are zombies, I can’t say there’s actually much gore or blood. The zombies are mostly taken out by gunshot or physical hand-to-hand combat. Whilst the impending doom of being bitten and killed by the zombies is scary enough, I felt a bit more gore and carnage would have satisfied the blood lust horror fiends out there, especially as the film never explores the scientific aspect of the film. This left me a bit disappointed as the Nazi’s experiments would have proved a rather interesting story indeed, but for those film fans looking for an survival action flick with one of the the horror genre’s favourite ‘monsters’, you’ll be in for a treat.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Bat 8126 Articles
I love practical effects, stop-motion animation and gore, but most of all I love a good story! I adore B-movies and exploitation films in many of their guises and also have a soft spot for creature features. I review a wide range of media including movies, TV series, books and videogames. I'm a massive fan of author Hunter S. Thompson and I enjoy various genre of videogames with Kingdom Hearts and Harvest Moon two of my all time favs. Currently playing: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Yakuza Zero and Webbed.

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