Outpost (2008)

Outpost (2008)

You can’t kill what’s already dead

In war-torn Eastern Europe, a team of mercenaries is hired to protect a mysterious businessman on a journey into no-man’s land. He leads them to an old military outpost used by the Germans during WWII. Here they experimented on their own soldiers in a series of bloody and gruesome tests based on some of Einstein’s theories. Soon the mercenaries realise that they have unwittingly awakened a terror that will turn their mission from protection to survival as a mysterious enemy emerges from the outpost.

 

There should be more horror films about Nazis. They are a criminally underused enemy, if somewhat clich├ęd to use. The list of horror films with Nazi soldiers is pretty slim but each one has their own pluses. Shock Waves back in the 70s dealt with zombie Nazis. We had The Keep in the 80s which opted for a more paranormal approach. More modern efforts include The Bunker and Deathwatch, both not exceptionally great films but showed that giving history’s most infamous villains supernatural powers is one way to create a kick ass horror film if done in the right manner. Outpost doesn’t exactly prove that point 100% but it makes a damn good effort of it.

The atmosphere in Outpost is second to none. Right from the start you know this film isn’t going to take any prisoners of war with its bleak setting. The colouring in the film has been bleached and saturated, giving it an almost dead appearance. The only colours you’re going to see here are grey and red! The bunker is the main setting for most of the film and as soon as the mercenaries head down there, you’ll be gasping for the fresh air of the surface. This is one claustrophobic place you wouldn’t want to get stuck in with murderous Nazi ghosts lurking. It’s superbly lit meaning there’s always just enough light to see around but not enough to provide sanctuary for the mercenaries. Hiding in every dark corner, in every pitch black corridor and behind every unopened door you really get the sense that they’re being watched and stalked from the moment they set foot inside.

I like the fact that this is a group of mercenaries, not a bunch of whiny teenagers who have stumbled upon the bunker by mistake. Having the mercenaries as the heroes makes the enemy seem all that more realistic and deadly. This is a trained group of armed men who have gone through a lot together yet have never faced anything like this. Think of Predator and the way Arnie and his team equip themselves to deal with their threat. Realism is the key to success here because they don’t do anything stupid. Apart from Ray Stevenson, none of the other mercenaries do much to distinguish themselves from one another. This is a bit of a shame given the room that the film gives to characters. Ray Stevenson is a decent actor who found his fame on Rome and he’s well suited to the role of the gruff commanding officer.

Pacing is a big problem though. There’s a massive build up throughout the film – each discovery or revelation about the outpost adding more and more tension. Unfortunately this goes on for a little too long and it seems like the mercenaries have been exploring the bunker forever. There is not a lot of meat after their initial discovery and it does drag a bit. It does feel like an eternity has passed when the enemy first shows up. But when they do, the film goes all out to impress and quickly you’ve engrossed once again. The first sight of the undead soldiers standing on the hill, shrouded in fog and illuminated by some ghostly light reminds me of the original The Fog. It’s a chilling moment which sends the spine into overdrive.

From here on the film builds to a crescendo that it clearly will never reach and the ending is somewhat unsatisfying, given that the mercenaries have already proved that the Nazis can’t be killed. The story itself is solid and based on fact. The Nazis were known to dabble in the occult – anything to give them the edge in the war. I don’t want to reveal too much about the film as part of the fun and excitement is finding out what happened in the bunker – needless to say that it’s all very plausible. The Nazis look pretty damned good too although the sight of a battalion of crack SS troops marching over the hill towards you wouldn’t exactly need much to make it look scary. And above all, the film has a real mean streak to it just to give modern fans of things like Hostel something to get their teeth into. These Nazis are pretty extreme in their methods of execution, torturing one poor fellow before stabbing him in the eyes. Their silent and stealthy approach leads to some scary moments (note when digging a trench – make sure you check there are no undead Nazi soldiers buried in the soil).

 

Outpost is a thrilling combination of the atmosphere of The Fog, the style of Predator and the gritty approach of Dog Soldiers. It’s one of the best horror films I can recall in the last few years. Tense, chilling and downright scary at times, proving correct the age old myth that gore and extreme violence are no substitute for good old fashioned atmosphere.

 

 ★★★★★★★☆☆☆ 

 

 

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