TADFF REVIEWS: WAR OF THE DEAD
WAR OF THE DEAD
Starring Andrew Tiernan, Samuel Vauramo and Mikko Leppilampi
Written by Barr B. Potter and Marko Markilaasko
Directed by Marko Markilaasko
Good things do not always come to those who wait. Finnish filmmaker Marko Markilaasko, for instance, filmed the WWII Nazi zombie movie War of the Dead back in 2007, but it only had its world premiere this past Saturday night at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. Likewise, Toronto audience members who had been excitedly tracking the film since that time were greeted by a middling action movie with little horror content whose atrocious script left little meat for its cast to chew upon.
A prologue tells us that Nazi experiments upon captured Russian soldiers to create unstoppable “anti-death” soldiers were abandoned early in the war. Fast-forward to the present day (1942) and we join a combined group of Finnish and American soldiers on a mission to destroy an enemy bunker. Soon enough, though, they find themselves attacked by an enemy that refuses to die. That leaves American Captain Martin Stone (Tiernan: 300) trying to discover the source of their undead enemy with the help of Lt. Laasko (Leppilampi) and Russian prisoner Kolya (Samuel Vauramo).
The young TADFF programmer who made War of the Dead’s Toronto premiere happen was so excited as he introduced the film and its director to us. But just because a movie is hard to find does not make it good – a lesson learned by any horror hound who gets a thrill upon discovering a ragged VHS copy of some long out-of-print “treasure,” only to discover that the film itself is not as fun as the hunt.
Similarly, War of the Dead is at worst boring, at best only mildly engaging, despite its online legacy of teaser trailers and intriguing production are. Given the international provenance of the cast, it is perhaps no surprise that the script (which is in English) seems to have been put through a translational vortex where every action cliché has been stuffed into its actors’ mouths, with a tepid bit of zombiedom tossed on top. Indeed, director Marko Markilaasko’s feature debut is a curiously bloodless affair, both literally and figuratively.