Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Rammbock aka Siege of the Dead

A zombie is what a virus looks like: ugly, carnivorous and without soul. It is infection. It is plague. It is anti-human.

When Hollywood first discovered the zombie they kept their depiction close to the mythos à la White Zombie 1932. Then along came George A Romero. In Night of the Living Dead 1968 he customized the zombie. He made them cannibals.

Cannibalism amongst humans is both myth and metaphor. It has been used as a propaganda tool by the colonial racists to genocidal effect. It rarely exists even within the animal kingdom but behind the myth it can exists amongst humans. Give the right/wrong conditions.

Due to its scanty occurrences cannibalism is not a daily fear but the thought of it is terrifying. To compound that terror Romero’s zombies ate people alive. Lions suffocate their prey before they eat. Hyenas gorge on live animals. Romero customized his zombies well.

There is an added insidious component: the Romero zombie spread its condition through biting ie saliva. Later in the AIDS infected 80s the contagion was further spread through contaminated blood. By and large the Romero blueprint was untouched for over 30 years.

Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later 2002 updated the formula with horrifying simplicity: the hitherto lumbering zombies now ran like a wolf pack. Every film depicting the undead since 1968 has been a Romero zombie or a Boyle add-on.

(The Serpent and the Rainbow 1988 is not a horror film.)

The zombie is metaphor for American pop culture. From music to fast food to movies and now finally sport (mixed martial arts) America influences and subsumes indigenous cultures wherever their exposure. So goes America so goes the rest of the world. The zombie movie exists in the UK (the aforementioned 28 Days Later and its sequel), Italy (Zombie Flesh Eaters 1979) and Serbia (Zone of the Dead 2009).

In Germany it is called Rammbock 2011. It is marketed to English speakers as Siege of the Dead.
‘Rammbock’ is not a translation. The word means ‘battering ram’. This is significant within the film but even in German it is opaque in context. ‘Siege of the Dead’ tells its own story.

The zombies are Boyle add-ons. The siege takes place in an apartment building thus the setting is reminiscent of [REC] 2007 and La Horde 2010. The premise is different to both.

Dawn of the Dead 1978 served as an allegory to consumerism. Resident Evil 2002 was an action film. Like the television show The Walking Dead Siege of the Dead attempts to tell a love story within a zombie attack.

A deaf mute could tell the difference between a European film and an American one – the Yanks are better looking with better teeth and with full hair and makeup. Actor Michael Fuith plays the lead looking to get back with the girlfriend who just dumped him. Michael is overweight and balding with an apologetic manner.

This is an acting performance without ego. It’s reminiscent of Edward Woodward in The Wicker Man 1973. Fuith is the centre of this film. It is his story. It is his quest to find the girl he is in love with. He is believable because girls don’t come along everyday for men who look like him. He is believable because it is easy to see why she dumped him. Whether he achieves audience sympathy is questionable.

The best thing about this film is the story. It is constructed step-by-plausible-step into a whole. So much so that the film seems to consist of one act. Nothing happens out of place and there are no inconsistencies. There are a couple of ‘stupid character’ moments but in the scheme of horror movies that amount is a compliment.

Writer Benjamin Hessler discovers a brilliant weapon to fight the undead which works perfectly within this picture. However it won’t travel beyond the film and it won’t become part of zombie lore. Hessler does include commentary about the media’s kneejerk reaction and wild speculation but Romero has done that before – only better.

This then is love story/action/horror. It works as a genre piece but isn’t one for those who don’t like zombies. It adds nothing new to the genre and says nothing new about love or any other human condition. Genre is all about singing to the choir but the singer had best sing well. Siege of the Dead is Kelly Rowland when the audience deserves Beyonce.

The most curious aspect of this film is the running time. At 59 minutes Siege of the Dead arguably doesn’t qualify as a feature. Patrons should be aware of this before purchase.

Siege of the Dead opens 4th May in the US. Special thanks to Bloody Disgusting Selects for making this happen.

Read more Thrill Fiction: Popcorn

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