It's the Eastern Front, 1944. The Russians are pushing the German Army back through Romania. Major Kurt Fleischer, war-weary commander of an elite troop of German soldiers, is ordered to escort a female scientist into a mysterious forest behind enemy lines to retrieve an ancient relic. As his men begin to disappear in strange circumstances Fleischer realises that the scientist is part of Himmler's occult department and there is something in the forest that is far more deadly than the Russians.Written by
Chronologically misplaced map in the opening sequence showing European countries that were not in existence until the 1990's; namely Czech Republic and Slovakia. Also, Belarus and Serbia would not be marked territories on a map in use in 1944 and Russia was still part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). See more »
There would appear to be a revival of sorts for horror flicks of a Nazi soldier bent. With both the Outpost and Dead Snow franchises doing reasonable business, especially in the retail market, it was inevitable that others would look to tap into the same lucrative vein looking to reap similar rewards. Earlier this year we were treated to the retail release of Backtrack: Nazi Vengeance. This British flick, again using Nazi's as its primal force, was a bit of a mess. With that still playing in the back of my mind I approached this feature début for former TV, commercial and music video director Mark Nuttall, with some trepidation.
Fortunately both Nuttall and screenwriter Nigel Horne have fashioned a tale that manages to feel both familiar yet fresh at the same time. Soldiers of the Damned is fresh in the way that it doesn't completely cover the same tracks as the aforementioned movies, although there are some similarities - the Nazi's interest in the occult for example. It also impressively manages to capture the period it is set in. Both the production design and hair and make-up teams are to be applauded for their work on the film within such a limited budget.
Unlike its comtemporary-based counterparts Soldiers of the Damned dares to be period set taking place in 1944 on the Eastern Front when the Russians are pushing the German Army back through Romania. Major Kurt Fleischer (Gil Darnell) is instructed to escort female scientist Professor Anna Kappel (Miriam Cooke) into a forest behind enemy lines so that an ancient relic can be retrieved. The soldiers in Fleischer's ensemble say that the forest is spooked or possessed but he doesn't initially believe them. Soon ghostly visions are seen and soldiers disappear as if burnt to ashes before their very eyes. Fleischer doesn't take long to suss that there is something far more sinister than expected lurking within the forest and has to figure out exactly what that something is before he and his team are completely wiped out.
For the best part of an hour our interest is maintained with something of interest happening throughout. However when it comes to wrapping up proceedings the energy on-screen flags under the weight of a script that has run out of more decent ideas. It also jars that the mainly British cast talk in English accents when they are meant to be German otherwise the performances are decent with Miriam Cooke particularly impressing in the key role of Professor Anna Kappel.
Mark Nuttall proves himself as a name to watch. His work in the director's chair is assured and bodes well for his future career in films. Despite the flaws mentioned Soldiers of the Damned is worth seeking out. For its limited budget the film sounds, looks and plays like a bigger studio production. Soldiers of the Damned is a breathe of fresh air in a genre that is otherwise currently stagnating under the weight of wearisome found footage and cheap zombie flicks. It's surprising, involving and far better than you would perhaps expect.
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