Sunday, October 30, 2011

30 Days of Fright - 29: Outpost

Playing soldier is something a lot of kids like to do and increasingly a number of adults enjoy to play too. As kids, little war games can teach important lessons about team work and conflict resolution. As adults, running about playing war games in a couple of acres of plantation can teach important lessons about dealing with a fucker of a hangover when on a stag weekend.

In deepest, darkest Eastern Europe, in some country that's a bit on the war-torn side, a representative of a company that's bought some real estate in the area kicks of Outpost (2008) by recruiting a mercenary to put together a squad of hard chaws to provide some security as he goes about his business. Hunt (Julian Wadham) hires DC (Ray Stevenson) who gathers up some tough nuts who are well up for the job. Hunt seems to be a man of the world and has experience dealing with mercenary types and some of the squad suspect that he’s not telling the whole truth about their little mission.

The lads all set off towards a particular location in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival the squad discovers a German World War 2 bunker that seems to be the focus of Hunt’s interest. As they take a look around the place they make the horrific discovery of a stack of bodies piled up in one of the rooms of the bunker. The bodies look fresh and sure enough one of them turns out to still be alive, though the poor sod is severely traumatized and unable or unwilling to speak.

The squad secures the bunker for the night but is attacked by unseen assailants who manage to wound one of the soldiers. This changes the dynamics of the mission quite severely and the problems for the soldiers grow as one of them is captured and killed in a torturous manner that puts the wind up the rest of them. DC confronts Hunt demanding an explanation of what’s really going on with the bunker and Hunt reveals that it had been used by the Nazi’s as part of a twisted super-soldier creation program that used a large machine to jimmy around with the laws of physics. Hunt shows the remaining squad members a film he found that documents some of the experiments and the extreme lengths the researchers had gone to. Hunt and DC realise that their unseen attackers are closely related to the experiments that took place in the bunker and might still be fighting a war…

Paintball in the Irish midlands is a serious fucking business! (that's me on the right)

For some strange reason films about soldiers set in modern times and located in Eastern Europe do not feel like “real” war movies, but that is how Outpost presents itself at the start, though mostly as a way to lull you into a false sense of what the film will be about. What Outpost is about on the surface is very simple. Nazi Zombies (of sorts). For all the times I’ve heard Nazi zombies mentioned I haven’t really seen too many so it’s nice to finally run into a few in a movie.

However, the Nazi’s that feature in Outpost are not actually zombies, in fact they seem to have more in common with Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen then they do with anything from The Walking Dead as the core of the story is the machine in the bunker and what it can do. As a plot device (if you’ll pardon the pun) it’s not the worst way to conjure up some baddies that are suitable for the type of goodies that were available, in other words it was nice and handy that a bunch of armed to the teeth soldiers were the ones who discovered the bunker as opposed to some teenage hikers as it’s unlikely that the hikers would have been as able for the situation.

Outpost is an unusual little movie that takes a swing at a bigger story then it's really able for. The theme of soldiers being laid siege to by supernatural entities has been done a few times and there are a few common threads to these stories that you can expect, particularly things like each of the soldiers having their own quirky personalities which in Outpost is presented well as each of the squad are of a different nationality, but while good at the small stuff delivering on the idea of the Nazi's working on advanced technology and the consequences of that work is a tall order and sadly Outpost wasn't really able to do it.

Once an excuse had been presented to get the Nazi's into the picture the film descends into a standard slaughter-fest with the soldiers simply fighting for survival over the course of a day or so. This is very standard fare and it happens in a very standard way. Ray Stevenson and Julian Wadham as DC and Hunt respectively are the best thing in Outpost because in a sense they're the only thing in it. The other characters are only in the film so as to be victims and are in no way developed beyond displaying whatever traits they were assigned so that you could tell them apart as they're murdered.

Outpost is a low budget British horror film but the lack of budget isn't why the film feels lacking. What it's really missing are better characters, if they'd been there then they might have told the story better and gotten across the real horror, the notion that World War 2 could have had a different outcome if some of those terrifying experiments had worked...

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Outpost.

Have you Seen Kyle (he's about that high)? Try these links, maybe he's there:

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