Eurohorror Spotlight #11: Rammbock aka Siege of the Dead (Germany, 2010)

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #11: Rammbock aka Siege of the Dead (Germany, 2010).

rammbockDirector: Marvin Kern

Starring: Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs, Anka Graczyk

We see a middle aged man, Michael (Fuith), ‘practising’ how he will give back the keys of an apartment to his now ex girlfriend Gabi who dumped him after 7 years. As he goes into the building he hears a man screaming and what maybe gunshots. He goes in but Gabi is not there, just a anti social plumber. Plumbers mate, young boy Harper, is attacked by the plumber who seems to be a zombie suddenly. They manage to get him out the flat and lock themselves in. They hear noises outside, look out a window to see zombies attacking other people. Checking the TV news channel people are being urged to stay indoors as the people of Berlin turn into crazy flesh hungry zombies. They spend the night there but in the morning they fear for the worst when all TV stations display the Test Card – nothing is on the air. Michael and Harper communicate with the residents by shouting out of the window as they try to figure out a way of escaping without being attacked.

rammbockpic1Released in the UK as Siege of the Dead but in the rest of the world as Rammbock, this is a fantastic little movie. It really is little too: the runtime is just 62 minutes. Many may be put off by a DVD claiming to be feature-length when its only just longer than an average episode of Top Gear or Homes Under the Hammer but those who look beyond the short length of this title will be in for a treat.

It’s not high on original ideas for plot but it does have a lot of nice little touches throughout its scenes that make it a little different from the pack. The trapped in an apartment building-attacked-by-zombies plot device has been done by the likes of REC (many times in the case of that franchise) yet Rammbock is more sombre and not as ferocious as its Spanish counterpart.

As is the case in movies of this nature there is no real explanation for how or why the zombies come to be although it won’t matter as the rest of the actions makes up for it (again, typical of the genre). The character of Michael is determined to fight on for the sake of his doomed relationship to Gabi while the young Harper goes along with whatever will keep him alive. The story seems to be implying that love is the ultimate driving force (more so when Harper falls for a young lady who lives in the building) and as long as you have that then zombies, and their lack of emotions, can never truly conquer the living.

RammbockMichael Fuith (Michael) and Theo Trebs (Harper) have most of the run time to themselves and they are both good actors. The film calls for them to display various emotions, sometimes in the matter of minutes, that they both do well. Fuith has gone on to appear in the recent Blood Glacier while Trebs, just 16 when Rammbock was made, has appeared in numerous German TV series.

A fun, compelling and often emotional zombie film that is short and high impact, a worthy Eurohorror to track down.

8 out of 10.

Available on DVD with English subtitles under both names Rammbock and Siege of the Dead.

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #10: Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre (France, 2001) by James Simpson

 

belphegor1Eurohorror Spotlight #10: Belphegor, Phantom of the Louvre (France, 2001)

aka Belphegor, Le Fantome du Louvre.

Dircetor: Jean-Paul Salome

Starring: Sophie Marceau, Frederic Diefenthal, Michel Serrault, Julie Christie

Egypt, 1935: We see some men exploring the inside of a pyramid where they find a tomb. Inside is a mummy that is over 3,000 years old. They take it to the Louvre and set sail. The finder becomes ill and frightens the ship’s crew mates. They begin to go insane and kill themselves.

Fast forward to present day, the Louvre museum in Paris. The same tomb has been found in a ‘forgotten storage room’. The name and face of the mummy have been scratched off of it, highly unusual for ancient Egyptians to do. The experts at the Louvre scan the bandaged body in an MRI to find out the identity: there is a metal mask covering the face furthering the mystery. Just then a ghostly skeleton flies out of the mummy and into a plug socket. Later, the mummy is unwrapped and they take the corpse a part and remove the mask. It appears the person was killed by their head being smashed in. This tampering of the body causes the ghost to zoom out of the building and possess the first person it encounters: the beautiful Lisa (Marceau). She finds herself suddenly drawn to the Louvre and the Mummy’s tomb, as members of staff are brutally murdered by an unknown person wearing the ancient mask.

Based loosely on the ‘real’ demon Belphegor, the story of an ancient Egyptian curse haunting/terrorizing buildings and people is nothing new. Wishmaster being a prime example. What helps Belphegor: Phantom of the Louvre is its setting. It does take place in the iconic French art gallery and museum most well known for housing the Mona Lisa. This makes for some impressive direction as the unique design of the Louvre is filmed from multiple angles throughout.

belphegor2It is obvious that some of the scenes aren’t filmed within the building due to reasons that become apparent: people being thrown around hallways, smashed through walls and similar incidents that would have damaged the interior. Still, it is a great asset for a film to have: a world famous tourist attraction.

The use of Egyptian mythology and other similar themes is explored and explained in a way that tries to inform the viewer why the spirit of this certain Mummy is able to do the things that it does when the plot starts to get a little more complex. It is needed as things do become a little complicated towards the end.

A fault throughout is the use of the ghostly skeleton that is seen flying around. The viewer can see this but the characters in the movie do not. As strange things happen around them due to the spirit they all seem puzzled as to what is happening. Yet later, eventually, some characters CAN see it yet it looks no different to earlier when the viewers could view it when others could not. So why now is it visible to them? It does often become frustrating.

Sophie Marceau, aka Mrs Christopher Lambert, is the typical sexy sophisticated French woman (well, it is a French movie admittedly but she is intoxicating regardless). There is a sub-plot of her electrician falling in love with her and trying to help her beat the demon inside. It doesn’t matter he’s only known her for a few days she is a sexy French woman. The electrician, Martin, is played by Frederic Diefenthal who is a very charismatic actor who adds a few moments of good comic timing. He may be better known for his lead roles in the highly successful French comedy franchise Taxi, where he plays the role of Emilien.

belphegor3The horror aspects of the film are of a good standard as some of the killings are very violent. The CGI used for the animation of the evil flying spirit is shockingly good for a film made in 2001 (compared to the much more advanced standards of today, of course). The use of the metal mask as a way to conceal the killers identity is typical of a horror with a ‘whodunnit?’ plot strand yet it works for the most part. The outcome of the killers identity is easy to predict though.

A good effort overall, Belphegor has enough positives to outweigh the negatives.

7 out of 10.

Available on DVD with English subtitles.

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

 

fb1Eurohorror Spotlight #9: Frostbite (Sweden, 2006)

aka Frostbitten

Director: Anders Banke

Starring: Grete Havenskold, Petra Nielsen, Emma Aberg

The coach trip, as it were, returns to the cold climate of Sweden for a comedy/horror that seems to be preaching “drugs are bad, mm’kay?”

Its 1944 and in Ukraine, men from the German Army Scandinavian Volunteer Division are under attack and run into the snowy woods nearby. They stumble upon a cabin and break in. It appears empty and they decide to spend the night there. In the night they wake as a previously unseen woman drops down from the rafters and grabs one of the men and climbs up the wall with amazing strength and speed. As the panic about what has happen one soldier falls down a trap door into the cabin’s basement. Down there are dead bodies and a small coffin with Maria written on it. Something from inside it tries to push the nails out of the lid. Scared, the soldiers quickly bury it before anything else will happen to them.

fb2Fast forward to what looks like the present and we see a woman driving a car with a girl, Saga, asleep next to her. They are moving into a new apartment in a region of Sweden that experiences ‘polar night’: no daylight for 30 days. Saga goes exploring the area and a man on a motorbike nearly runs her over. She walks off in disgust but something in the nearby woods is watching them. It attacks the biker. When his body is found an autopsy is carried out and two puncture marks are found on his neck.

Saga (Havenskold), the next day, is at her new school. Everyone is abuzz with the news of the murder. An eccentric student named Vega (Aberg) approaches her and invites her to a party later in the week. Vega is planning to take some pills with her that a friend found in the local hospital. The same hospital where Saga’s mother is now working that also has a ‘patient’ that may be involved in what happened in Ukraine back in 1944.

fb3The movie starts off promising thanks to the intriguing scene in the cabin. The soldiers stumbling upon the child sized coffin will grab most peoples attention, more so once the person inside screams and somehow forces the nails out of the wood, due to the fact there is something horrifying about seeing a coffin of that size. The death of a child is understandably shocking but when it transpires the child within the casket isn’t quite dead then it shocks even more. This imagery is little used as the film takes a slightly frivolous tone thereafter.

This is thanks to the ‘present day’ setting of Saga and the students of her new school. Much of the humour comes from Saga’s new school friends taking a ‘drug’ that does more to them than just getting them high. The viewer is shown what the junkies imagine they see as they start their trip: a talking dog appears frequently telling one character he is a failure. One dog, in the woods, asks if the druggie has “…seen my ball?” Then tells him it doesn’t matter as it runs away. After a while the comedy becomes too much as the plot tries to shift back towards horror. But the drug induced hallucinations and the ‘humour’ they offer still crop up in the middle of the grisly blood shed.

fb4It should be noted the drugs taken actually turn the characters into vampires. As the high passes the user is in great pain and cannot stomach anything. They eventually attack non-users and even animals. This leads to one unsettling scene when a pet rabbit is munched on by a relieved junkie-turned-vamp. The party the students attend turns into a blood bath as those who didn’t take the pills are set upon by those that did.

The setting of Frostbite does lend itself to an eerie atmosphere and environment. Every scene outside appears to be night time due to the location of the town. The vampires are aware of the lack of daylight when they taunt that “…daylight is just a month away!” This idea would later be used in 2007’s 30 Days of Night. The lighting, as a result, leaves many characters semi luminous with many darkened areas around them, ideal for any bloodsucker to make their attack.

fb5The use of drugs turning people into vampires could be an attempt to dis-encourage people from using mind altering substances. People becoming blood thirsty may be an allegory for real life users becoming addicted and wanting more drugs. It is something that will be interpreted differently from viewer to viewer, no doubt.

The film is entertaining although a little frustrating due to its over reliance on comedy. If Frostbite went for ‘all out horror’ it would have been even better.

7 out of 10.

Readily available in the UK on DVD with English subtitles.

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #7: Thale (Norway, 2012)

thale1Eurohorror Spotlight #7: Thale (Norway, 2012)

Director – Aleksander L Nordaas

Starring – Silje Reinamo, Jon Sigve Skard, Erlend Nervold

The spotlight is back and returns to Norway for a horror/fantasy film that is worth seeking out…

Two crime scene cleaners, Leo (Skard) and Elvis (Nervold), are busy searching for body parts and remainders of a dead man. He lived in an isolated area of Norway, with his home surrounded by a forest. The pair have a lot of ground to cover and get to work. But Elvis discovers a large hole at the back of a small shed near the house.

Going through the hole they find that it has some steps leading down to a small room. They go into the room and notice there is nothing in it except a locked door. Elvis forces the door open and they head into another hidden room with a torch. It appears to be some sort of scientific lab but also has many empty food tins inside.

thale2Elvis plays a tape on an old cassette radio he finds on a bench as Leo heads back upstairs to report the rooms to his higher up’s. The tape features a man talking about a specimen he was working on. Just then a naked woman bursts out of a bath tub full of white liquid and grabs Elvis by the throat, starting to choke him. Leo runs back in and tries to talk her out of killing his friend. Finally she let’s go revealing that she is completely naked and she appears to be very confused.

Leo and Elvis are told to wait in the rooms with this woman and keep an eye on her until the higher up’s arrive. While they wait the pair discover that various diagrams on the walls seem to relate to the anatomy of females matching the naked woman as well as some strange tailed creature/girl. They begin to find out more about her and that she is very special, yet dangerous, as somebody outside arrives with murder in mind.

A surprisingly strong film despite a short run time, 74 minutes, and next to no budget. The director Nordaas has revealed Thale cost just $10,000 and as a result he did various other roles in the making of the movie in order to cut costs. Despite the rock bottom budget the film appears to be very polished and slick. Nordaas knows how to get his money’s worth.

thale3This could be why the filming locations are limited to the shed-come-underground-lab and its surrounding forest and woodland. The external shots are often beautiful, like a video postcard of scenic Norway, while the internal shots of the hidden rooms are dark and creepy. The subterranean scenes were shot in the basement of the director’s father to further cut down on costs.

Not many actors appear during the brief movie but those that do are very strong. Skard and Nervold, who play Leo and Elvis, are very likeable as the two mates trying to stay cheery despite mopping up dead people (Elvis usually throws up while Leo rolls his eyes). When Thale, as it turns out is the name of the girl, is first found it is Elvis who reacts badly and is frightened of her. As the plot moves along he begins to overcome his fear and wants to seek more out about her. It is a believable change in direction for the character and well acted.

Reinamo is undoubtedly the star as the titular Thale. From the moment she first appears on-screen until the very end of the run time she delivers a brilliant performance. Her character never speaks a word but this is overcome by her ability to fully express a wide range of emotions with her face and body language. She is certainly an attractive woman and this will no doubt not harm the films quality. She is also naked for most of the film which will definitely catch the eye of some watching.

thale4The plot is intriguing and makes good use of Norse/Scandinavian mythology. As Leo and Elvis learn more about Thale it comes to light that she could be a ‘huldra’: usually assumed to be a beautiful woman with a tail that lives in the forest. How she ended up in the underground lab and appearing more human than she should is teased throughout with the truth finally emerging at the end of the picture.

A great Norwegian horror/fantasy film Thale is slowly growing in popularity across the world and is definitely recommended.

A sequel is currently in the works.

8 out of 10.

Available on region 2 DVD via various websites as well as being streamed on lovefilm. With English subtitles.

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #5: H6 – Diary of a Serial Killer (Spain, 2005) Review

h61Eurohorror Spotlight #5: H6 – Diary of a Serial Killer (Spain, 2005)

 

Director – Martin Garrido Baron

 

Starring – Fernando Acaso, Maria Jose Bausa, Raquel Arenas

 

 

The Eurohorror Spotlight series has a new entry with grisly Spanish serial killer flick H6 and it isn’t for those easily offended…

 

 

Antonio is seen having an argument with his girlfriend. She has had enough and wants to leave him but he decides that if he cant have her no one can. He strangles her to death in the corridor of the building they live in. He is sentenced to 25 years in prison for the murder.

 

The plot shifts forward to Antonio (Acaso) being released from prison, seemingly a reformed man. He marries Francisca (Bausa), although she has done this solely to escape her repressive parents, as well as inheriting an old, large guest house from his recently deceased aunt. Moving into the run down building Antonio spends every night by himself while Francisca works night shifts at the local hospital. With all this free time and a big house Antonio makes a deadly decision.

 

He decides he will purge the world of undesirables and those not worthy of being alive (in his mind, of course). He touts business with prostitutes and once he has them in the guest house he drugs or attacks them. He keeps the prostitutes, one at a time, locked in room 6 which he has converted into a serial killers ‘perfect’ room for death.

 

h62The walls are covered in plastic, as is the floor and he has a large table in the centre of the room with wrist and ankle bounds attached to the corners. While he keeps his hostages alive, repeatedly raping them, he preaches to them about having ‘lost their way’ in life before brutally killing them with a chainsaw. He keeps a diary of all his activities as his twisted belief that he is doing God’s work strengthens.

 

The cover boasts that H6 is the Spanish Hostel but it is not quite as similar as the Eli Roth movie. It is gruelling and gratuitous in the assaults and violence inflicted on the women within the film as is Hostel but the similarities go no further than this.

 

It is a disturbing picture nonetheless as Antonio appears to be a totally unhinged blood thirsty misogynist that takes great pleasure in causing great suffering to his hapless victims. He leaves the women tied in room 6 for days, occasionally going in to rape them, as he talks at length about how they are scum for being prostitutes. The irony is that Antonio sees no wrong in torturing and savagely killing these women. One victim begs for water and Antonio seems to comply as he pours liquid from a bottle over her face. She shrieks as it emerges it is his urine. He also questions the women about what their desires were and if they still have faith despite being ‘worthless’ whores. One female opens up and tells him that she is ashamed of her life as a crack whore and Antonio seems pleased. He ‘rewards’ her by raping her yet again.

 

h63He is clearly killing because he has issues with women, not because they have failed God by being prostitutes although he does spare one street-walker when he spots religious images in her purse and she tells him she has never given up her faith in God (this is when he attempts to lure her to room 6). His first victim in the newly inherited guest house is actually a man who appears to have been squatting in one of the rooms at the top of the building. Antonio quickly (compared to the horrors the women have to suffer) kills him by strangulation and dumps his body back in the room. Antonio is not this merciful with his female murders so it is assumed he prolongs their deaths as he derives sexual pleasure from them. He never treats his wife this way though, even when she refuses his sexual advances and admits she wants to leave him and is having an affair with a doctor. Like many male serial killers they never make their wives a victim.

 

It is a compelling and harrowing movie although the ending will have people thinking twice about the intentions of the director. The film spends most of its run time making it clear that Antonio is a disgusting human being yet his fate come the end of H6 seems to contradict this moral.

 

7 out of 10.

 

Available on region 2 DVD via several sites and currently being streamed on Lovefilm. All with English subtitles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eurohorror Spotlight #2: Urban Explorers (Germany, 2011)

ue1Eurohorror Spotlight #2: Urban Explorers (Germany, 2011) (aka The Depraved)

Director: Andy Fetscher

Starring: Nick Eversman, Nathalie Kelley, Max Riemelt

The spotlight shifts from Norway to Germany as the series continues its look at some European horror films you may have missed over the years…

Plot:

A group of tourists are having a wail of a time in Berlin, Germany. They meet up with a shady man who claims he can get them access to a subterranean network of tunnels built by Hitler and his Nazi Army during World War II. Late at night he takes them into the tunnels, at a cost of course, with the promise a recently discovered room contains little seen Nazi artwork. But first they must travel through the many lengthy tunnels in order to arrive at the room. They find it and marvel at how wonderful these forgotten paintings are. Upon returning to the ‘outside’ the guide falls down a shaft and is seriously hurt. Two of the tourists go for help while the others stay with him. While waiting for medical assistance a scruffy looking man appears out of nowhere claiming he can help them…

A fun modern German horror movie that feels more as if it is an American ‘teens-in-peril-somewhere-bad’ tale Urban Explorers is well polished and will hit the right note with genre fans.

ue2The plot can seem a little stretched and silly at times but that often happens in horror movies (or a lot worse) but the acting and direction make up for it. Eversman is strong in his role of Denis which is a massive compliment for him considering this was made the same year he ‘starred’ in the woeful Hellraiser: Revelations. He offered an ‘interesting’ performance in that, certainly. But in Urban Explorers he makes up for it as his character suffers some nasty incidents brought on by the ‘scruffy looking man’. Kelley’s role endures similar unpleasantness and screams a lot but she does it well.

Not much in way of ‘gore’ happens during the movie although when it does it is grisly. One character (wont reveal which for spoiler-averting purposes) has the skin of their torso sliced open at the waist, all the way around. The skin is then yanked up and over their head as if a t-shirt is being removed. Its fitting the madman carrying this out describes the act as ‘taking the t-shirt off’. Kelley has an ear mutilated as well as having plastic bags forced over her head then removed just as she is about to pass out due to a lack of oxygen. She suffers this type of abuse a couple of times and it is sadistic to say the least.

The end of Urban Explorers will bring to mind British horror Creep (2004) and takes the action away from the underground tunnels the hapless victims find themselves being stalked in. The setting of the tunnels is a great idea yet isn’t fully capitalized upon. The movie was actually filmed within these long abandoned passageways beneath Berlin so that does add a level of authenticity to what is on-screen.

ue3If you want to explore German horror movies and don’t know where to start, Urban Explorers is a good introduction to the sub genre.

It is in German at times but English for most of its run time. Subtitles are provided for non-English dialogue.

7 out of 10.

Available on DVD & Blu-ray in the UK as well as being streamed on iTunes.