Writer: Luca Boni, Marco Ristori
Director: Luca Boni, Marco Ristori
Reich Of The Dead is also known as Zombie Massacre 2 – the latter being a very misleading title. This isn’t a gore filled splatterfest about huge numbers of people being torn to pieces. If anything it’s exactly the opposite: a small scale film with more
atmosphere than action.
The story follows four Allied soldiers in Nazi territory during World War II. When one of them is injured the group seek refuge in an old building.
No, they don’t immediately get jumped on by zombies – in fact we don’t see anything ‘unusual’ for 30 minutes. The first half hour is a straight war movie, and a damn good one. The characters and their interactions are well portrayed and there’s a huge amount of tension even though nothing much is actually happening. Script and direction work really well and had me engrossed, however those waiting for the zombie massacre might have lost patience.
When the zombies do appear, they are all wearing prisoner/hospital uniforms, clearly the results of those infamous Nazi experiments. Although vicious, they’re not overly difficult to kill – there are interesting shots of zombie bodies laying like massacred soldiers on a
battlefield. See what they did there?
So far so good. It’s not typical zombie fare and won’t appeal to gore hounds, but for the first hour Reich of the Dead is a tense, classy production that makes great use of its limited budget and locations. The subdued colour palette combined with the damaged buildings gives an interesting post-apocalyptic feel.
Then we get to the final act and it all goes wrong.
We get dream sequences of one of the soldiers as a kid which, whilst technically well put together, are overly sentimental and don’t fit the atmosphere. Presumably Boni and Ristori were attempting to use the happiness of the past to contrast the horror of now, but it’s too unsubtle.
Then the soldier meets Erin (Lucy Drive), who might or might not be the spirit of his dead mother. If she is (the cast list suggests so) then she has a strange way of helping her son: after giving him and us an infodump she then leads him straight into danger and abandons him.
At which point Dan van Husen enters the scene as Doktor Mengele (yawn). He does his best, but his part is little more than background exposition to make clear a story we could pretty much have worked out ourselves. The religious subtext is interesting but not really explored.
Eventually we get to the ending. Or endings. Initially the film just stops, rather too suddenly. Then there’s a post-credit scene which is at best confusing. A generous interpretation is that what happens post-credits is the soldier dreaming again, this time of salvation. Or it could be that the last 30 minutes was the dream, which would be a disaster.
Reich of the Dead shows massive promise at the start. If Boni and Ristori could have kept up the restrained tension for the whole film it would have been excellent. Unfortunately the last half hour is a badly written mess that drags down the rest of the film.