Strange appeal: Oasis of the Zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 21 - 2009

oasisofthezombiesYou want more Nazi zombie badness? We got more Nazi zombie badness. French/Spanish Nazi zombie badness in the form of the cheap, schlocky Oasis of the Zombies from the early ’80s. In this slow, ponderous outing a group of treasure hunters run afoul of a group of Nazi zombies haunting an oasis where millions in stolen Nazi gold is hidden. The zombies are some kind of weird hybrid ghost-zombies who disappear at dawn (even though it’s clearly light out in several scenes…) and hide in the sand when they aren’t busy stalking and murdering.

The problems of this movie are legion. The set and production design is possibly the worst I have ever seen. For example, one bit of evidence the Nazis had been there was clearly just a slab of wood with a swastika clumsily painted on it in white. The story was weak, the writing was miserable and the dubbing was atrocious. Yet despite being a bad movie by most every measure, there was something strangely watchable about it. It had a nice sense of atmosphere and really hot girls, a few of which supplied the obligatory gratuitous nudity. It’s not worth the time if you aren’t a total zombie-movie fanatic, but I’d call it the best of the terrible Nazi zombie movies, for what little that is worth.

Soporific: Outpost

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 17 - 2009

outpostLest I give the wrong impression by reviewing one good Nazi movie (Dead Snow) after reviewing only one terrible one (Zombie Lake), I thought it was time to balance the scales with another, typically awful stab at the Dead Reich genre. In this case, the 2008 snoozefest Outpost serves as our example. In this turkey, unkillable Nazi soldiers are created by a last-ditch effort to harness a “Unified field” via a “unified field generator” as the Nazi regime is collapsing at the end of WWII. Then some modern day mercenaries get involved, and mayhem ensues. Very, very slowly.

The director was obviously trying to go for atmosphere over gore or action, but come on! There’s a certain amount of action implied for a movie chock full of mercenary killers and undead evil. Instead we got lots of futzing around and weird, awkward attempts to borrow from Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Stargate movie — at least, that’s where my mind wandered during one of the many interminable scenes. The acting was barely conscious and the film used some kind of filter than made everything look grainy, washed out and ugly. In short, a total mess, well worthy of its place of (dis)honor amongst its crappy Nazi zombie brethren.

Dead Snow

Posted by Cory Casciato On April - 7 - 2009

deadsnowBased on the average quality of Nazi zombie movies, I thought it would be a cold day in hell before I saw a good one. I was almost right. The Norwegian Dead Snow is easily the best Nazi zombie movie I have ever seen — and it’s certainly cold.

Eight medical students head up to a secluded cabin for fun in the snow. Even before most of them have arrived, one falls prey to the as-yet-unseen undead soldiers. Shortly after the rest arrive, a mysterious and cranky old man appears to deliver the film’s back story (Nazis used to have an important base here, were evil, pissed off the locals, robbed them of their gold, were eventually chased into the mountains to freeze to death) before disappearing into the night to become the first victim we see get it. Before long, the revelers have found a stash of said stolen gold (what a surprise…) and the mayhem begins in earnest. From that point on, characters are dispatched at a decent pace in some impressive ways until the inevitable showdown between a whole army of mostly dead, extremely angry Nazis and a couple of survivors armed with tools.

This is a splatteriffic horror-comedy that wears its inspirations on its sleeve — almost literally, since one character is wearing a Braindead (aka Dead Alive) shirt. It’s the tone of that zombie classic — and, to a lesser degree the Evil Dead series, which is discussed by the same character at one point — the filmmakers seem to be aiming for, and they hit it for the most part. And while Dead Snow is nowhere near classic status itself, it is a lot of fun in its own way. The humor falls a little flat at times, but it manages to get off more good lines than bad. The writing and acting are both competent and more than up to the task of telling its meager story. The direction is impressive, apart from a few points where the pacing drags. Even better is the cinematography, which is beautiful and really makes the most of the bleak but gorgeous Arctic setting.

The zombie make up generally looks good but is a bit uneven — some zombies look pretty damn cheesy. The real star of the film is the outrageous gore. It’s creative, relentless and almost constant. The deaths and maimings are gruesome, clever and technically impressive. The highlight is several literally gut-wrenching intestine-centric scenes. Seriously, the filmmakers love the intestines. What Fulci was to eye trauma, these guys are to guts.

The movie does have some issues.  There’s no consistency to the toughness of the zombies. Some keep coming regardless of what’s done to them, others go down for the count after a single shotgun blast to the chest. The story itself doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when you come right down to it — there’s a definite implication that the discovery of the Nazis’ gold stash is what riled them up, but at least two characters are killed by them before that happened. Since this isn’t a movie that takes itself too seriously, neither of these issues hurt it too much, but the nagging inconsistency was enough to subtract from its considerable charm nonetheless. Despite that, it’s definitely worth a look from any zombie fan, and it looks like U.S. audiences will get the opportunity, since a distributor picked it up  at Sundance.

Visit the movie’s web site to see a trailer and, hopefully at some point, information about its U.S. release.

Waterlogged: Zombie Lake

Posted by Cory Casciato On March - 25 - 2009

zombielake1Sweet lord, is Zombie Lake bad. Bad. It’s one of the curious subgenre of  Nazi zombie movies. You’d think angry, dead, fascist Germans eating folks would be a can’t-miss proposition, but you’d be very, very wrong. I swear this subgenre is cursed. So far every Nazi zombie movie I have seen has been god-awful. Seriously, these are some of the worst of the worst in a genre teeming with terrible ideas, half-baked execution and incoherence.

Anyway, you’ve got some Nazi zombies living in a lake. Or not living, I guess. They came to be there after being slaughtered by some French folks at or near the end of WWII. For some reason they revive to eat the occasional swimmer in the titular lake. Then they come out to terrorize the town, or in the case of one zombie, to reconnect with his daughter. Curiously, his daughter doesn’t seem particularly concerned with the fact that her dead father is a rotting, shambling mess, despite never having met him before. Eventually the town folk formulate a plan to save the day. Hooray. None of this is explained and it all happens at a plodding, interminable pace. Long, long before this is over you will be begging it to end.

The make up and gore effects were, hands down, the worst I have ever seen. Seriously, I’ve seen little kids’ Halloween makeup that was much better done. The gore was limited to buckets of fake blood — they basically didn’t bother faking wounds for the most part. A zombie bites, fake blood is doused on the area and they call it a day. Add to the mix execrable writing, dull direction and terrible acting, and you have a big pile of vomit. It did have plenty of nudity, which honestly is one of the few things saving this from being the single worst zombie movie I’ve ever seen. Let’s face it, some attractive naked women help break up the monotony. There are two full frontal nude scenes, one of which featured like ten women. All hot. It was still not enough to lift this off the bottom of the barrel, but I’ve helpfully included a NSFW shot of a few them after the jump, to save you the trouble of actually watching the movie. Read the rest of this entry »

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