When eventually ranked in the annals of zombie war flicks, War of the Dead will earn a place somewhere alongside the gritty militarism of Romero’s Day of the Dead. But not really. Marko Mäkilaakso’s debut feature certainly delivers what it promises––it‘s a grimy, action-packed zombie war spectacle…that creaks under the weight of a silly-ass screenplay. It may not be a perfect film, but if you’ve got a jones for zombies in uniform, War of the Dead has got your fix.
When a squad of Allied soldiers assaults a Russian bunker during WWII, they inadvertently stumble into a horde of ravenous zombies, the result of some heinous Nazi experimentation. And these aren’t the moaning, lumbering undead of Romero’s world; Mäkilaakso’s zombies sprint, snarl, and have more than a passing familiarity with hand-to-hand combat. It’s like Ip Man meets Dead Snow.
The assault on the Russian bunker decimates the squad, and they mourn each other’s deaths with enough hand-wringing melodrama to overstuff a 1950s B-grade war picture. The cheesy dialogue frequently threatens to mortar the entire movie, but Mäkilaakso always manages to redeem these missteps with some sweet, sweet zombie action.
As our remaining heroes are compelled to infiltrate a second, super secret bunker (spoiler alert?), the zombies come at them in waves, like swarming insects. There are few solo encounters in War of the Dead; these wartime zombies are all or nothing. If you hope to stand a chance, you’d better brush up on your jujitsu.