As fate would have it, FEARNet On Demand just added the military-themed thriller "Outpost" to its lineup and, in so doing, dramatically shortened the amount of time between my asking Baron XIII what he wanted to watch and the ensuing decision. We're analytical (some might say "fussy") people, so this can be a rather elaborate process. Unlike the somewhat similar-feeling trenches of WWI shocker "Deathwatch," which the Baron loved and which didn't really make the cut for me, "Outpost" was a winner for both of us. The plot is simple: seven mercenaries accompany a wealthy client to a mysterious WWII-era bunker and terrible secrets are uncovered. It's a straightforward thriller that achieves its goals of creating a haunted house atmosphere in a Nazi bunker inhabited by some pretty damn formidable ghouls. There's nothing fancy or complicated about the structure or the characters that inhabit the film--instead, it's a movie that's composed of a series of refreshingly *right* choices within the bounds of established genre conventions.
Simply put: if you're the kind of person who wants to watch a movie about Nazi zombies, you'll like "Outpost."
LESS simply put, here are five things "Outpost" does very, very well that make it a movie worth your ninety minutes:
1. Broadly-sketched, interesting characters. The eight men involved in the plot aren't the deepest, most nuanced characters to grace the screen, but their sparse dialogue is used very carefully to craft distinctive individuals with unique motivations. The streamlined dialogue means there's virtually no time spent on backstory, another wise decision that helps keep the plot moving and the suspense taut.
2. No sexy babes. Seriously--THANK YOU for this. I am so sick-to-death of the unnecessary inclusion of the Kick Ass Babe™ in every Tough Guy Ensemble, the purpose of whom is to wear a low-cut tank top and growl unappealingly while shooting a gun and creating cheap sexual tension. Seriously, casting directors--you're not discovering a generation of Sigourney Weavers; you're just artistically smudging the cheekbones of models with faux-filth and expecting this to pass as "toughness." At least the Damsel In Distress isn't a disingenuous trope. And, in deference to gender equality, the male players aren't delicately-boned pretty boys fresh from the set of a prime time melodrama--a casting choice I appreciate just as much!
3. Eerie use of light. The dramatic use of lighting really adds to the creepiness of the cobwebbed interior of the bunker in a way that's artful without being obtrusive, but the real show-stopper is the use of floodlights during the outdoor night sequences. It's kind of amazing that such a simple technique could produce such dramatic results, but I'm a real sucker for bright lights through fog at night. That's one of the finer images to capture on film, I must say!
4. Well-placed humor. It's easy, in 2009, to use the zombie movie as a platform for slapstick comedy. While some zombie flicks have employed deliberate, over-the-top comedy with successful results ("Dead Alive," "Shaun of the Dead"), this isn't always--or even usually--the case. "Outpost" is mainly played as a straight horror film, but there are some moments of humor that keep it from being tedious or grim. Also, no characters are named "Romero" or "Savini" (this goes way, way past pet peeve when filmmakers pull "clever" shit like that).
5. Nazis are the best cinema baddies. Really, there's no question of who you need to root for here. Nazis = bad. Zombies = bad. Therefore, Nazi zombies = superfuckingbad.
Crack open a beer, grab some chips, and queue up "Outpost"--it's a nice to watch the little low-budget shocker that could every once in a while, isn't it?
OnlyGoodMovies.com ranks "Outpost" as one of the 25 Military Movies to See Before You Die--and I agree! See the rest of the list here.