Film discussion

Throwback 10: Outpost

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, today we will be talking about zombies. And Nazis. In fact, we will be talking about Nazi Zombies, or is that Zombie Nazis?

Either way, this is a curious little subgenre of the zombie movie that has been around since as far back as the forties and over the years we have had disembodied Nazi heads, underwater Nazi zombies, Afrika Korps zombies, Nazi zombie cyborgs, Nazis on the moon (though not actually zombies) and even Nazis at the centre of the earth (God Bless the Asylum, purveyors of only the finest in cinematic tat. Also, not zombies).

Today’s offering is Outpost, a movie from 2008 which has your classic unkillable Nazi zombies. Or Nazi ghosts. The movie is a bit vague on the details. The script offers up some technobabble about unified fields and super soldiers and the Philadelphia Experiment but as a whole it plays somewhat fast and loose with the origins of our antagonists beyond “science”.

As tour story begins the only information we’re given about our location/time period is “present day” somewhere in “Eastern Europe” where a man by the name of Hunt has contracted a group of mercenaries for what initially appears to be a simple mission: escort him through an area of no mans land to investigate some “real estate” his employers have recently acquired. On arrival, though, the real estate turns out to be an apparently abandoned Nazi bunker and this becomes the focal point for the rest of the story. The setup is serviceable, if nothing particularly unique. The unreliable company man with his own agenda trope has been done to death by this point and really this is all just an excuse to get our characters to where they need to be for the mayhem to commence.

In movies like this it sometimes feels like everyone is trying to ape the opening helicopter scene from Predator, showing the camaraderie between the soldiers and letting us get to know a little something about them before they inevitably end up being cannon fodder. Here we begin with our motley crew of soldiers of fortune sitting in the back of a truck and we’re treated to slow, lingering shots of each to allow you to take in the variety of different uniforms on offer, making it clear that these men come from all over the world. There is someone with what looks like a UN blue beret and then we have the US Marines, Foreign Legion, Russian army and more and that is about all you will ever learn, most of them you’ll never know their names, or where they’re from as nobody is properly introduced in any meaningful way. Their job is to be here to get killed and the story offers little else beyond this to differentiate each man from the other beyond their uniform and accent.

That criticism aside there are many other things that are done well here, especially when you consider the tiny budget of only £200,000.

The German bunker set itself is claustrophobic and creepy, the atmosphere so thick you could cut it with a knife. The buildup is carefully measured, the fire fights refreshingly realistic, giving you the impression that these men really are professional soldiers. The audience is kept waiting for half an hour before anything particularly spooky happens, forty minutes in before the first proper attempt at a scare, and the hour mark is looming before the first proper death. That’s pretty ballsy for a ninety minute horror movie to spend half the running time in setting the tone and building the atmosphere. All that aside, it keeps things moving along nicely, drops hints and warnings of dire things ahead and when the fecal matter properly connects with the rapidly revolving blades at about the hour mark it barely pauses for breath till the credits roll.

Unfortunately here is where the story goes a bit off the rails. The movie seems unable to decide what it wants to do with the Nazis and their abilities are badly defined to say the least. At the beginning they seem to be ghosts who can disappear at will and phase through solid matter and by the climax of the movie they have instead become little more than shambling bullet sponges that the cast could probably outrun at a brisk jog if you got to open ground which is a real shame as it truly diminishes their threat.

An unfocused story aside, this is a tightly put together, well-acted and well-shot movie. Spawning two sequels, Outpost is well worth a look if you also enjoyed offerings such as The Keep or The Bunker, especially the latter as it has a very similar feel to this. It might not set the cinematic world on fire but what it does well it does very well, and what it does badly is honestly forgivable and won’t detract too much from an all round entertaining movie.

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