Written and Directed by Marko Makilaakso, War Of The Dead is not the first film to have Nazi zombies in it. This ground has been trodden on numerous
times (Zombie Lake, Shock Waves, Dead Snow, Oasis Of The Zombies and more recently Horrors of War). And believe me there are some right stinkers among that lot.
War of the Dead begins with the Nazi’s catching some soldiers on the border of Finland and Russia. Shooting most of them, the Nazis take the
unfortunately lucky (?) soldier captive and he is then experimented on (well, tortured really). After a blood transfusion with what must be zombie stimulant, he is then transformed into a zombie and proceeds to kill all those in the room with him.
A task force of Finnish and American troops is soon sent into enemy territory to locate and attack the secret experiment camp. But before
they have even managed to do this, they are set upon by Russian troops. Left with only a handful of men following the attack, they are then attacked by the zombie versions of their allies and enemies. The stimulant appears to be transferred via a zombie bite (as per usual). It seems that the only way of stopping the zombie invasion is to use that age old zombie annihilation formula: shoot them in the head.
After the fight is over, a handful of soldiers are left: American Martin Stone, Lieutenant Laasko, Russian soldier Kolya, and Finnish Captain Niemi.
Captain Niemi gets bitten and for some strange reason gets turned into some sort of super zombie with amazing strength and dexterity. It is puzzling why this happens as it doesn’t happen to any of the other characters.
Finding a car, our heroes continue with their mission. Will they survive? Or do even greater horrors await them upon arrival at the experimentation camp?
Filmed on a budget of just under £800,000, War of the Dead certainly gives you the impression that it’s a film with a more substantial budget. The locations
are impressive and complex and you see them in detail as the soldiers weave their way through forests, houses and when in the camp, travel through no end of tunnels, rooms and escape hatches.
It’s a refreshing change for me to watch a film with this many location changes as it helps to you a feel of the varied terrain that was experienced by the countless soldiers who did battle during World War II. Much has been said on the internet (as a criticism) about the fact that during the fight scenes
the locations are very dark, but in defence of this I would say that it actually adds a lot to the atmosphere of the film.
Character-wise I immediately warmed to the Russian solider Kolya. He doesn’t let the fact that he has been captured by his “brothers-in-arms” stop him from helping them as much as he can. He also has vast knowledge of the camp and assists his fellows during numerous points in the film, sometimes to his own detriment. Actor Samuel Vauramo plays the role superbly.
However, what ultimately lets War of the Dead down as a zombie war film is the fact that you don’t really get to see many zombies. In some scenes plenty of zombies are around, but due to the camera work, direction and fact that they are so fast (along with the atmospheric lighting) they’re not captured properly on screen.
It’s quite disappointing as I love my zombies and would love to have seen some differentiation in zombie make-up, movement and character.
Generally, the effects for the film were impressive, but some of the acting from the wider cast left a lot to be desired. This was probably not helped by the script, which at points struggled to keep up the momentum (although countless explosions did help to redeem this in a way).
Despite my criticisms I would still recommend this film to someone who is a newcomer to zombie movies. It would also be appreciated by people that love action films in the vein of Seagal or Van Damme – the numerous explosions along the way reminded me of their style.