Devils of War (2013): Get Ze Cliche

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Written and directed by Eli Dorsey, Devils of War is his first feature film. One can only hope that he has learned his lesson with this film and either changes his career choice or makes a better feature film next time.

Starring Sunt Coordinator/stuntman Jerry L Buxbaum as the “legendary” leader of a four man team that is, unsurprisingly, full of three more “legendary” men. Buxbaum can be said to be the biggest name in the film. His elite team has been tasked by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) himself to extract a mole from the occult headquarters of Hitlers paranormal Nazi division.

In a race against time and demons, the small squad must rescue the mole and stop evil from winning the war.

I am sure that this must have seemed like a good idea on paper. Hell, just re-reading my short synopsis of the film makes it sound better than it actually is.

There is no doubt in my mind that this film was most likely intended to be a parody or a satire of old war films like The Dirty Dozen or The Guns of Navarone but with a supernatural twist. Unfortunately the film is so bad, it isn’t funny. It is just horrendously awful.

The lines are leaden and so full of stereotypical clichés that it hurts the ears to listen to them. The acting is so wooden that a tinker-toy could have acted rings around any chosen member of the cast. The story, which as I said above, wouldn’t be bad except for the dodgy effects, plot holes, poor cinematography, ridiculous script and bad acting, could be a good one

I will say that there are a couple of instances where the special FX is fairly impressive, but only in a couple of places does it rise above mediocre. The explosions are obviously CGI as well as some of the sets. Again, I had the feeling that this “obvious” CG schtick was on purpose as part of the “gag.” It just doesn’t work.

From obvious clinkers like the lead character referring to an aluminium warehouse as a castle and the actors playing the Nazi occult specialist Thorn and the two scientists looking like the geeks that hang around the Radio Shack store or PC World in the 21st century, this film was so bad I felt cheated at the purchase price of three pounds sterling (or about 5 bucks).

I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!
I had no idea that they had silicone in 1944!

There were some laughably bad lines (generally from the Nazi members of the cast) that did bring the odd snort of laughter from me while watching. Lines like: “Get ze Girl!” and “Bring me ze virgin.” Not to mention, “She got avay.”

Sure, we know that “movie German’s say Zis und zat, und ze, but not quite zo cartoonish-ly.

I could write on for another 500 words about how bad this film actually is, but, I will stop fairly quickly. I don’t want to run this into the ground here. I do want to point out that with the availability of digital equipment that is being used widely in the Independent market right now, there was no reason for the film to look bad as well.

Amazingly, IMDb gave this film a score of 2.8! I can only assume that Dorsey or someone on the production side of things handed a few bucks under the table to give the movie some kind of score.

My final verdict is not 2, not 1, not any stars out of 5. I can only feel that this film might find an audience amongst the more “drug induced” viewers. Because the only way that this film could be entertaining would be if the target demographic was the “high-as-a-kite” clubs of the world.

Avoid at all cost and if it is offered to you for free?

Pay to watch another film!

The "tip-off" should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a "Cult Classic" on the cover!
The “tip-off” should have been the fact that the film is referred to as a “Cult Classic” on the cover!

Underground (2011): Underwhelming

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Sometimes when you find a DVD on sale for five pounds stirling you get a bit excited because you might have just found a bargain. A lot of times the “bargain bucket” can contain some hidden treasures. A wonderfully surprising gem.

Underground is not one of these delightful surprises. In fact, I feel like the price was about four pounds too much.

For as many things that the film did well; prosthetics and the “creature’s” makeup, there were too many other things that drug the film down into the muck and mire of sheer dismal drudgery.

Directed by Rafael Eisenman, Underground never takes off as a film. The acting is atrocious and the storyline asinine.

A group of young people attend a rave at an abandoned Army base. The base, which was shut down after some sort of top secret experiment went wrong and wound up killing a squad of soldiers, houses the result of this experiment, deep underground in a nest of bunkers.

The young people, two of whom are ex-soldiers, get into a fight with what looks like a motorcycle gang; who are referred to repeatedly as gang bangers. When it looks like the soldiers are going to win the fight, more gang bangers come pouring out of the crowd and chase the smaller group into the bunkers.

When they close the door they find a man and woman having sex. They soon find out that they’ve been locked in the bunkers and that the sexy couple are not the only things that they’re sharing the bunker with.

One of the better action sequences and one of the few times you could see.
One of the better action sequences and one of the few times you could see.

A real hodge-podge of a film, Underground has too many problems to really work. The editing really lets the whole thing down, as well as the lighting. Between it being too dark to really see who is who and the editing seemingly done by a sight impaired editor, the action is difficult to follow and the viewer winds up getting as lost as the young people in the bunker.

The acting was wooden and lifeless, a lot like the interaction between the main protagonist and his doctor girlfriend. But I don’t want to single them out as an example; the only actors who seemed realistic were the ones playing the “creatures.”

The plot relies on the old chestnut of a Nazi scientist experimenting on American soldiers. This “scientist” was supposedly an apprentice of Dr Mengele (the angel of death) who is rumoured to have escaped to South America and died. Granted the guy looked like he might be about a hundred years old. But Nazi’s? It would have made for a great black comedy, except this film was so bad, it wasn’t even unintentionally funny.

There were a few things they did well. Some of the creature effects were very good. The overall production value, when you could see it, was good as well. I am assuming that, like a lot of other recent films, that it was shot using digital equipment. Unfortunately high production values alone do not a good film make.

There were way too few scares and the action, when there was any, was again edited poorly and the lighting was even worse. I suppose you could blame the film’s problems on the low-budget, but really in this day and age, that is no excuse. I do  like dark films, but not so dark that I can’t make out what’s happening.

Avoid at all cost, unless you like being over-charged by four pounds for a film.

He's lucky, he won't live long enough to watch the end of this film.
He’s lucky, he won’t live long enough to watch the end of this film.

Dead Snow (2009): Norwegian Nazi-Zombie Fun

Cover of "Dead Snow [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Dead Snow [Blu-ray]
Directed by Tommy Wirkola (Kill Buljo: The MovieHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters [2013]) and co-written with Stig Frode Henriksen (Kill Buljo: The MovieKurt Josef Wagle og legenden om fjordheksa), Dead Snow is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The film itself could almost be a ‘fan-film’ of all things horror and zombie related. It opened to positive reviews and although there is no reference to the films shooting budget, it earned respectable one million plus dollars in it’s gross profits. Although the film does feel a little like an updated version of the old ‘Andy Hardy’ films and their, “Hey kids, lets put on a show in the barn!” , it doesn’t suffer from it. It actually causes the film and it’s paper thin plot that bit more appealing.

The film opens with a young lady being pursued though deep snow in the Nordic mountains by a Nazi-zombie. She is cornered, killed and eaten by a group of Nazi-zombies.

We then meet a group of seven students who are on holiday in the Norwegian mountains. They are on a skiing trip and on the way to a friends cabin in the mountains. The students are all typical ‘film’ students, in other words they all focus on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The students make their way to the cabin and their first night there they encounter a ‘hiker’ Turgåer (Bjørn Sundquist) who tells the students about an old Norwegian curse that affected the Nazi’s who occupied Norway during the second world war. Greedy Nazi’s who searched for a rumoured pile of hidden riches were cursed. When the Nazi’s died in their greedy quest, they were  forced to forever roam the mountains as the undead who would be brought back to ‘life’ by the allure of riches.

The students, Martin (Vegar Hoel), Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), Vegard (Lasse Valdal), Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten), Erland (Jeppe Laursen) and Chris (Jenny Skavlan) have been invited by Vegard’s girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) to stay at her cabin. Unfortunately, the young lady we saw at the beginning of the film being snacked on by zombies was Sara and she won’t be showing up.

The group are confused and concerned by Sara’s absence and they discuss where she might be and whether they should be searching for her. They search the cabin to see if they can find a clue about where Sara might have gone.

This film is a combination of a comedy of errors and a possible homage to the Evil Dead films. The students themselves are dispatched quite messily (and truth be told, comically)  by random Nazi-zombies and at one point two of the survivors arm themselves with assorted power tools.

The group at different times in the film discuss popular myths and legends about zombies in films and other cultural elements. For the most part they try a lot of the more culturally prevalent means of dispatching  zombies. Hilariously they either succeed or fail and it is their realization of the danger of their predicament that amuses the most. By the time they begin to take things seriously, it is for most of them, too late.

The film makers were not afraid to milk the most laughs possible out of any given scene. At one point in the film, one of the students, Vergard, is fighting with a zombie while they both hang on the entrails of another zombie, dangling from a cliff face.

The zombies, because of the curse, are attracted by riches of any kind. When the students discover a box full of ‘treasure’ in the basement of the cabin, this lures the zombies to attack and kill the cabins inhabitants.

I laughed as much as I groaned at some of the more apparent ‘clichés’ that the film-makers included in the film’s set pieces.

But I loved the film and it’s ‘cliff-hanger’ ending. Fan’s of horror films and zombie films should enjoy this film, if they realise that it’s not taking itself seriously at all. Watch it with the idea that it is a combination of satire and spoof and you’ll get a kick out of it.

Dead Snow
Dead Snow (Photo credit: DONOSTIA KULTURA)