Saturday, September 22, 2012

In short: War of the Dead (2011)

aka Stone's War

This Finnish/Lithuanian/American/Italian co-production about a Finnish/US commando troop in Finland after the Winter War trying to blow up a bunker but encountering zombie-like undead instead at least has a strained production history to excuse some of its numerous flaws, but understanding why director Marko Mäkilaakso's film is a rather drab affair does not make it any better, and the time spent with it any less boring.

It's a bit of a shame, too, for there are a few elements buried under a cornucopia of rote war movie clichés and some not exactly exciting zombie action that could have been exploited to produce a much more interesting tale. Especially the political situation the film is taking place in could have made for emotionally complex, probably even educational zombie cinema, but the exploration of Russian/Finnish relations is as drab and tepid as everything else on screen. That part of the movie is also probably not exactly easy to understand for the audience a film shot completely in English is going for; products of the US education system, at least, generally seem to have problems enough to accept that there were other nations taking part in World War II than the Germans, themselves, and the Japanese, so it might have been useful to ease them into the historical situation a little. But since the film also never attempts to give the part of its story where the last survivors of different nationalities have to work together against the zombies either any sort of twist or enough depth to make it actually worthwhile, making at least its historical dimension clear would have been too much to ask for.

War of the Dead is not made more exciting by characters that are written so emotionally distant it would be hard to even keep them apart if not for their faces. Not that they do much with those faces, mind you, for the acting is as lethargic as the characterization. I wouldn't speak of bad performances, but rather of non-performances.

And then there's the part that usually saves me from being bored by any given World War II zombie movie, the action: expect lots and lots of slow motion, some decent choreography, and a desperate feeling you have seen all this before in movies that either had some emotional depth (that is to say, any emotional depth at all) or were funny, or just knew how to be exciting instead of vaguely, dispiritingly competent. That, alas, is War of the Dead in a nutshell.

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