Review by James A. Janisse
Outpost: Black Sun is a horror movie released earlier this year about Nazi zombies. Actually, I think zombie Nazis is more accurate, since they were Nazis before they were raised from the dead, not zombies who decided to join the National Socialist party. In any case, the film is a sequel to 2008’s Outpost, a fact I did not know before I sat down to watch it, so bear with me since I’ve never seen the original and thus might be missing some background information. In any case, Outpost: Black Sun doesn’t deliver on the good times zombie Nazis would suggest, ending up a muddled affair that plays like a boring first-person shooter.
After a set-up that shows us mad Nazi scientist Klausener (David Gant) and his re-animated soldiers kicking some ass, we meet Lena (Catherine Steadman), a young Jewish Nazi hunter trying to track down aging officers to exact revenge for her ascendants. This quickly leads her to an undisclosed location in Eastern Europe, where she joins engineer Wallace (Richard Coyle) to uncover why, exactly, there are so many NATO troops in the area. Their search eventually teams them up with a squad of soldiers who are venturing deep into the woods to turn off an electrical device that’s powering an army of reanimated Nazis.
This set-up is kind of preposterous, but there have been plenty of great movies built upon outlandish premises. What makes those movies work, though – and I’m thinking of silly affairs like Rocky Horror or Repo! The Genetic Opera – is that they don’t take themselves seriously. They embrace the campiness inherent to their story and just roll with it, winking at the audience to let them know they’re in on the joke. Director Steve Barker, who also co-wrote the film with Rae Brunton, inexplicably shoots Black Sun completely straight-faced, as though these zombie Nazis were a somber threat his audience should be made aware of.
I wouldn’t bash the decision to make this a serious film if it had been done cohesively. After all, the Nazis were an actual real-life terror, one of the most evil groups of people humankind has ever seen, and it’s not inconceivable that their return – undead or not – could be played as commentary on fascism in the modern world, or something like that. But instead, we get a hunchbacked zombie woman whose shrill laughter never stops, a dude hooked up to electrical cables that can spew out force lightning at random, and a script with so many “F”-words that it could have been written by a middle-aged boy. It’s really hard to take a movie seriously when lines like “This is for all the marbles” get uttered without a modicum of self-awareness.
And that still isn’t the worst bit of dialogue in the film. The aforementioned lightning guy is incomprehensible, dejectedly reciting lines that sound like they’re coming from an angsty first-year philosophy student. “The world is vibration particles, nothing more,” he says to Lena, as if that actually meant something. The confusing dialogue and story-line is made worse by perpetual dark lighting and camera movements designed to give the viewer motion sickness. Its honestly hard to imagine them making this movie worse than it already is.
Filmmakers who work in cheesy B-horror take note: If your movie’s material sounds ridiculous at the offset, play it up and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, you might end up with Outpost: Black Sun, a joyless movie that isn’t even graphic enough to satisfy gore-hounds.
Video: A lot of Outpost: Black Sun is very dark, a sad fact since it looks pretty damn good when you can see what’s going on. The video is crisp and the colors are appropriately bleak, but whether the characters are indoors or outdoors, they’re moving around in perpetual darkness, making it sometimes hard to see what’s going on.
Audio: One of the few great things about Outpost: Black Sun is its sound design, which gets great 5.1 treatment on the Bluray. The Nazi growls come through excellently, and the occasions where sound gets muffled for dramatic effect are perfect.
Extras / Special Features:
Making-of (5 minutes): 5 minutes of interviews and on-set footage. Barker talks about his decision to make a sequel to Outpost and how he had $200 grand extra to make it. Steadman and Coyle talk about their roles and the movie’s plot, and even they seem like they’re not entirely sure how this script got written. For the record, they both did a great job with the material they were given to work with.
Trailer (2 minutes): The trailer gives a good condensed version of the plot, chronologically introducing Lena, Wallace, and the soldiers. It’s actually more clear than the movie in telling the story, and it does a really good job of making the movie look exciting.