Saturday, April 19, 2008

I Have Poor Judgment In Renting Movies

If there is one thing that World War II movies almost inevitably are, it's awesome. If there is one thing that zombie movies almost inevitably are, it's awesome. As completely unfathomable as it is that no one's had the presence of mind to combine the two yet, it's even more unbelievable that the first person who did managed to screw it up so utterly completely.

I suppose a writer incompetent in every conceivable way could somehow manage to ignore the boundless pathos of surviving an immeasurable army through war-torn Europe. I suppose it's also possible, if an incredibly incompetent filmmaker made a really concerted effort, to actually make a movie about the undead horrors of the netherworld returning to consume live human flesh be boring. However, when I saw that for the first time since the original Wolfenstein video game series someone remembered that, hey, Hitler had a hard-on for necromancy, I assumed the final product wouldn't have been a worthless disappointment of such staggering proportions.

When will I learn not to be misled by impressively elaborate video covers that in reality have absolutely nothing to do with the actual video encased within? You'd think I would have learned my lesson with porn. Some of those don't even feature the cover model, but all of them do feature a disgusting parade of slimy perverts writhing like worms with neurological disorders. The cover for this movie depicts a brigade of gritty, angry German soldiers storming the war-torn European streets while bombers spit down bullets overhead and Hitler's face superimposed over the clouds, all washed in a cold, solemn blue overlay. Not only does this cover not have anything to do with the movie its promoting, but the stationary image is actually more exciting than anything that happens in the actual movie. It's a fundamental rule that if the back of the box offers no screenshots, the movie is going to suck, no matter how many Kevin Smith endorsements or film festival participation recognitions it boasts.

In this accurate World War II portrayal, you won't find cringing Allied soldiers persevering to overome unparalleled physical and mental torment to vanquish the Nazi menace through decaying shells of former European towns in the rain. If there's one historical fact this movie teaches us, it's that the majority of all World War II battles were faught in vibrant, picturesque glens on beautiful, sunny days between roving contingents of sometimes up to half a dozen random troops. The entire movie looks more like a home video of a World War II historical re-enactment society, especially when the soldiers run through
undisrupted ravines.

Something else I learned from this movie that you'll never find in your elitist history books is that the entire German army was much smaller than we have previously been led to believe. You never see more than six Nazi soldiers together at any time, and one of the American troops even fears that there may be up to a dozen soldiers guarding the secret lab where Hitler made his zombie supersoldiers. If such an important asset to the German army as the secret of necromancy is only guarded by a contingent of twelve men, I wouldn't estimate the entire Nazi military at more than a hundred total troops.

You know that setting in Photoshop where you can layer your picture in a crackly, wrinkly texture that no one uses because it's for losers? Apparently
people dream in that. Back in 1943, grenades could only explode into tufts of smoke that signal the soldier to collapse onto the ground. We never actually see Hitler, which is only disappointing because he was pictured prominently on the box, but then we never see the horde of uniformed abominations advancing through ravaged cities either. Even in Wolfenstein we got to confront and destroy Hitler. I guess it's not that important since the scope of the typical World War II movie lately has focused more on frontline drama than on large-scale sensationalism, but then Saving Private Ryan didn't include pictures of Hitler on both sides of the cover and repeatedly allude to him in the summary as if he was a major catalyst in the movie. The movie did, at least, reveal what the summary expressed to be "a creature that can not be described," although the rather anticlimatic revelation of said creature actually negates that statement.

Normally the cross between a war movie and a zombie movie would seem so natural you'd question why no one ever thought to do it before, but this movie can't make up its mind if it wants to be a gritty and dramatic war movie or a shocking and gory monster movie. It ends up being a boring and anticlimactic failure at both. You could easily tell which actors the producers would have liked to portray the main characters had they the money and vision to make this a full-scale production instead of one of those movies ten-year-olds would make with their friends on an ambitious Saturday afternoon. I don't know if they tracked down the actors' stunt doubles or if they just happened to know people who look slightly like major celebrities if you squint a little, but somehow I think the stunt doubles probably made more money doing stunts than these guys could offer to star in their movie.

There's a sensitive rookie sergeant who looks just a little bit like
Shia LaBeouf at the right angles. The corrupt commanding officer who enjoys raping French women in his free time is obviously played by the closest thing to Randy Quaid they could scrape up from under a rock. Or maybe it's Dennis Quaid. That inbred family has infiltrated Hollywood and every single one of them looks the same to me. There's a guy who hams up his obvious Val Kilmer impersonation with the trademark smug face. Finally, the part of the unlikely hero of the story is so obviously meant to be Bruce Willis that the actor should have just spent less time telling his commander "I don't understand," and more time groaning in agony while kicking some ninja's face off.

If there were action like that in this movie, there might actually be action in this movie. Forget the hardened, angry soldiers persevering through driving rain, flying bullets and certain death to complete their assigned missions. Most of the battles in this war movie take place on sunny days in open, green pastures. The most deadly situation these soldiers might run into besides incompetent German soldiers is a particularly heavy underbrush. Although it takes a talented filmmaker with an unparalleled vision to make a normal zombie movie scary when set in broad daylight, this movie was apparently crafted by an extremely lazy filmmaker and contains a rough estimate of five total zombies, four of which attack during the day. It's pretty much a fundamental rule of filmmaking that
monster movies set during the day are not scary. Monster movies set during the day are especially not scary when all the monsters just amble forward until they are shot in the head from a safe distance.

Five total soldiers are enlisted to infiltrate enemy territory and destroy the laboratory responsible for creating the inhuman supersoldiers. I'll let you reread that last sentence one more time for full comprehension. The Germans have discovered a way to circumvent the natural order of the universe, and instead of carpet bombing the entire facility into talcum powder or advancing a mass of soldiers to kill everyone involved and burn the entire blight against God to the ground, the Americans respond by dispatching five of their most proven incompetent soldiers to investigate. Sorry, four of their most proven incompetent soldiers and one who's a werewolf. If you want an idea of just how incompetent these soldiers are, they know they have a werewolf on their side, and instead of attacking at night, under the veil of darkness and when werewolves are famous for changing, they wisely decide to attack the laboratory during the day, which is generally the absolute least effective time to ever deploy a werewolf.

So it turns out that werewolves, zombies, and ghouls are created through science available in the 1940s, back when Mengele was still trying to turn brown eyes blue by injecting them with food coloring. It turns out that the average World War II battlefield was occupied by fewer troops bodies than the afternoon shift at the local Denny's, and every single one of them is an idiot. It turns out that the only thing worse than living through the horrors of war is watching a movie with the same title. Finally, it turns out that quite possibly the only thing I have in common with a zombified Nazi is that I'm pretty sure neither of us would mind eating a Jewish chick.

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