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Popcorn Fall

Popcorn Pictures

Reviewing the best (and worst) of horror, sci-fi and fantasy since 2000

  • Andrew Smith

World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen (2015)


To celebrate the centenary of the First World War, a TV documentary team travels to the Somme to put together a ratings smash about new mysteries relating to the famous battle. However, what they unearth is far from a new story of those that died one hundred years ago but an army of the undead desperate to avenge their losses from a hundred years earlier.


It’s a bit hard to get excited about a genre film that squarely positions itself with the boundaries of two of its most over-used sub-genres. I’m talking about World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen. And I’m talking about the film being a cross between the found footage sub-genre that has been worked to death in the past couple of years, and the much-travelled zombie genre which had literally nothing left to give in the 2010s, outside of the first few seasons of The Walking Dead. With both sub-genres having nowhere left to go that’s fresh and interesting, all we get is stale mixes of the two like this.

I’m guessing the selling point for this one is for its war-themed zombies, only this time the zombified Germans aren’t Nazis, they’re just normal Germans from the First World War. It makes little difference when they’re all shuffling around with helmets on. Cue the basic found footage set-up where we see the world through the eyes of the cameraman, we are introduced to the main characters and they all go about their jobs. It’s hardly riveting stuff and seems to take ages before anything worthwhile actually happens. Visiting the site of the Battle of the Somme, the filmmakers at least seem like they had a good holiday whilst filming. There’s no real build-up of tension here and very few set-ups for later on. I'm willing to overlook pacing issues early in films if it leads to something later on but at a lean seventy-seven minutes, World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen is grossly padded out for no reason.

Once the crew discover the zombie army, it’s purely by-the-book found footage numbers for the remainder of the running time. I always question what the found footage approach adds to a film - certainly there's no sense of realism here or that you're present with the characters. It's a gimmick and unless you invest in the gimmick, it becomes a pointless one. You can tick off the usual tropes: the camera somehow manages to remain focused on all of the important bits of action regardless of the angle or position; the camera shakes around and drops to the floor numerous times; the camera picks things up in the corner of the frame which are not there again on closer inspection; the cameraman implausibly keeps filming for far longer than you or I would do in the face of certain death, for instances when his friends are being torn to shreds; and there will also be some scenes where the camera’s night vision mode is enabled. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before. There are no new approaches to the material. It’s just safety first which adds nothing new to the film and arguably does more damage to it.

When the survivors head into the underground trench, things go from dull to impossible to watch. The scenes are far too dark to see what is going on and between the unnecessary fake camera glitches, the shaking movements and the lack of light, you’re going to be waiting for a while if you think you’ll get a good look at some of the action. That’s appropriate too given that there’s hardly any action anyway. Save from a mildly effective couple of seconds at the beginning of the first zombie attack, the rest of the attacks just consist of the characters running around in the dark shouting swear words and trying to avoid being grabbed. World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen suffers badly from poor cinematographic choices, worrying more about parlour tricks with the camera than constructing something worthwhile to actually film in the first place. Seeing characters (or I say hearing characters) scramble around in the dark gets tiresome quickly.

I actually hate seeing actors ‘act’ in these found footage films, trying to act naturally as if they were off-camera. Talking in low voices, indulging in endless chatter, speaking over the top of people, etc. gets frustrating after a while. They do it to try and capture the essence of filmmaking but in doing so these films lose their pacing, their narrative and sometimes end up in shouting matches or scenes with people screaming and running around. There’s a lot of that in World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen. Right from the first zombie attack, the characters run around like headless chickens trying to escape the zombies. At least the always radiant Kacey Barnfield stars, probably the only reason this would get any sort of star rating from me.


Final Verdict

I’m really struggling to get into this review since watching World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen was a struggle in itself. With literally nothing worthwhile to comment on, it’s a good thing that at only seventy-seven minutes long, it doesn’t waste as much of my time as it could have done.


World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen

Director(s): Freddie Hutton-Mills, Bart Ruspoli

Writer(s): Freddie Hutton-Mills, Sebastian Marescotto, Bart Ruspoli

Actor(s): Philip Barantini, Kacey Barnfield, Robert Bladen, Kyle Frank, Marco Gambino, Wendy Glenn, Ovidiu Lapusneanu, Davide Manganelli

Duration: 80 mins


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