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S E A R C H    D V D B e a v e r

(aka "Stone's War" )

 

directed by Marko Maakilaakso
USA/Lithuania/Italy 2011

 

In 1939, Nazi scientists carried out "Anti-Death" experiments on captured Russian soldiers in a secret bunker on the Finnish/Russian border. Two years later, the experiments were halted, the records destroyed, and the subjects buried in a mass grave. That same year, a small American unit lead by Captain Stone (Andrew Tiernan, EDWARD II) was sent in with a Finnish unit lead by Captain Niemi (Jouko Ahola, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN) and Captain Laakso (Mikko Leppilampi, FROZEN LAND) - with accompanying documentary filmmaker Selzman (Mark Wingett, BREAKING GLASS) and his assistant (Andreas Wilson) - to destroy a Russian bunker as part of an offensive against the Germans. They are ambushed by Russian soldiers, who themselves are then attacked off-screen by unkillable assailants (who drop from the trees and are hungry for flesh simply because they are undead) who then conveniently whittle down the American/Finnish unit to Stone, Niemi, and Laakso. Hiding in trenches, the three run into surviving Russian soldier Kolya (Samuel Vauramo, THE AMERICAN) who leads them to rickety shelter in a cabin too easily penetrated by the undead assailants. Niemi is bitten and his erratic behavior veers towards paranoid and deadly. Stone and Kolya manage to gas up an old automobile and escape with Laakso from the undead hordes (which now include Niemi in their number). The three men meet up with Kolya's possibly-infected girlfriend Dasha (Magdalena Górska). Despite Stone's reluctance, Laakso wants to leave the two behind; however, Kolya tells them he can lead them to a radio to get help: the only problem is that it is in zombie-ridden bunker.

This American/Lithuanian/Italian co-production began life circa 2008 as STONE'S WAR with James Van Der Beek (TV's DAWSON'S CREEK) and Oliver Gruner (NEMESIS). Both actors were eventually replaced by, respectively, Tiernan and the younger Vauramo (Gruner was listed in early references as "Russian Soldier" although I would have assumed he would have been cast as Niemi). After the shooting was completed circa 2010 (I believe), the film as apparently held up by its Lithuanian producers (the one million Euro-budgeted film is rumored to be the most expensive production so far for that country) and retitled WAR OF THE DEAD. The publicity blurbs compare the film to BAND OF BROTHERS crossed with DEAD SNOW (a putrid Nazi zombie comedy), it feels like the biggest influence on the film was DOG SOLDIERS (with maybe a little bit of THE BUNKER and DEATHWATCH). Director Maakilaakso reportedly mounted the film more as a homage to eighties action films than zombie films or horror in general, and one kind of gets that intermittently with Stone's one-liners ("Let's dance" he growls to zombified Niemi before their lengthy climactic hand-to-hand bout) and the slow-motion moments of poignancy; however, something is off in the casting. While there might have been some comic value seeing Van Der Beek aping Kurt Russell or Sylvester Stallone, Tiernan (used more effectively in the aforementioned THE BUNKER as the sinister Schenke) doesn’t have the viewer familiarity of one of the many DTV star equivalents to yesterdays A-list action heroes, or that of the now-DTV sci-fi/horror schlock headliners. As a result, he appears to be less tongue-in-cheek slumming his way through the two-dimensional badass American action hero gestures (Stone has a dead wife in his past too, so he has nothing to lose) despite a convincing American accent and being seemingly game to play the good guy this time around. Leppilampi and Vauramo fare better.

Although the co-producers were American, one can't help suspect that the presence of editor Michael J. Duthie is indicative of some heavy post-production tinkering (Duthie re-edited New Line Cinema's Jackie Chan/Golden Harvest acquisitions like RUMBLE IN THE BRONX and FIRST STRIKE to supposedly make them more palatable for US audiences). Technical credits are slick but unspectacular, as is the zombie make-up (juicy gore is also sadly lacking for a zombie film). The EVANESCENCE-esque end title song by Apocalyptica (featuring Italian singer Cristina Scabbia) seems totally unsuited to the period of the film (as well as Maakilaakso's eighties action aesthetic - more so than the camerawork and editing). My only guess is that it is present because Maakilaakso directed the music video for it. WAR OF THE DEAD really brings nothing new to the genre, and is somewhat less successful in its throwback look and feel than the more unevenly acted, and even more derivative ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE: REDEMPTION.

Eric Cotenas

Poster

Theatrical Release: 24 February 2012 (UK)

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DVD Review: Momentum Pictures - Region 2 - PAL

Big thanks to Eric Cotenas for the Review!

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Distribution

Momentum Pictures

Region 2 - PAL

Runtime 1:22:36 (4% PAL speedup)
Video

2.35:1 Original Aspect Ratio

16X9 enhanced
Average Bitrate: 6.27 mb/s
PAL 720x576 25.00 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles English, none
Features Release Information:
Studio: Momentum Pictures

Aspect Ratio:
Widescreen anamorphic - 2.35:1

Edition Details:
• Making of WAR OF THE DEAD (4:3; 15:27)
• Trailer (16:9; 2:02)
• Start-up trailers for HAYWIRE, THE WOMAN IN BLACK and JUSTICE

DVD Release Date: 28 May 2012
Amaray

Chapters 12

 

Comments

Momentum's barely dual-layer DVD features a progressive, anamorphic transfer with a bitrate that seems to adequately handle the largely dark and drab look of the film and the incoherent action sequences. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is suitably loud and directional, favoring music and action foley effects over atmosphere). A making-of featurette, a trailer, and start-up trailers are what tip the disc over to the second layer.

  - Eric Cotenas

 


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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

Momentum Pictures

Region 2 - PAL

 

 




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