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War of the Dead – a review

May 28, 2012

Well well well, I finally got to see the first (mostly) Finnish feature-length zombie film, War of the Dead (or Stone’s War as it’s also known). Did I like it? No, not really. Was it bad? Yes, pretty. Was it completely awful? No, it wasn’t. Let’s see now.

Written and directed by Marko Mäkilaakso, War of the Dead is a story set in WW2, 1941. A team of US and Finnish soldiers are en route to destroy a Soviet bunker somewhere in Karelia. What most of them don’t know is that the Russians are carrying on with some zombie/undead super soldier experiments they stole from the Nazis. Before long most of the soldiers are dead and there’s some more shooting and the movie ends.

That, dear readers, is one of the things that’s wrong with WotD. The above summary is a pretty accurate one of the film’s plot. As you can see, there isn’t very much of it. You’d think that with Finns, Americans, Nazis, Soviets and zombies running around in hidden underground bunkers, you’d end up with a wonderfully crazy movie, but you don’t. While I’m at it, let’s see some of the other things that are wrong with the movie:

The zombies don’t know whether they’re birds or fish. They are a bit bitey, but also tend to just punch people. While it’s established that they’re undead, they’re more like the soldiers in Dead Snow than zombies as such.

The movie’s pacing is terrible, there’s no way of getting around it. There’s pointless action and a lot of it. Come to think of it, a fair few scenes, in which you expect some plot development to happen, are interrupted by random zombie attacks…

…and since the plot doesn’t develop, neither do the characters. Of the three major characters, there’s basically one with a personality. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: a zombie movie lives or dies depending on its characters, and in this case WotD dies a horrible, horrible death.

The dialogue is stilted, cliché-ridden and definitely not helped by the English used. At times the movie’s dialogue reads like a parody, it’s so bad. Corny one-liners are the order of the day – only you don’t know whether they’re supposed to be funny or serious.

If this sounds like I’m piling a lot on the film, it’s true. During the first 25 minutes of War of the Dead I was seriously considering walking out of the theatre. In the movie’s defense it needs to be said that it gets better towards the end. The movie also has a very good cast, even if they are mostly wasted due to the lacking plot and terrible dialogue. As a Finn it was sad to see such excellent young Finnish actors as Samuli Vauramo and Mikko Leppilampi being cut off from most of their potential. They do their best with what they’re given, so kudos to them for that.

Another area in which the film excels is the visuals. It’s a lot of eye candy, and the movie looks a lot better than the budget of less than € 1 000 000 suggests. Some of this is ruined by shoddy camera directing in the action scenes in particular, but the film looks very nice nonetheless. If only looks could carry a film!

Overall verdict: War of the Dead sadly isn’t a very good film. Director Marko Mäkilaakso not only concocts an ill-fitting mixture of different, clichéd elements, but wastes a bunch of good Finnish acting talent while doing it. While the movie looks nice and gets better towards the end, the first hour or so is so rife with plot incoherensies, awful dialogue and awkward pacing, that you’ll be fighting your own personal war to get through it. For me the movie was a definite disappointment, but there’s probably a personal element involved, this being a Finnish movie and all. If you go in without any high expectations, this one might offer you some good WW2 action/horror fun.

WotD is available on dvd at Play.com, complete with a cover that seems to portray a different film altogether.

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4 comments

  1. Besides gritty scifi, I enjoy good zombie flicks…no ragers! 😉
    Hordes of mindless shamblers with our erstwhile hero counting ammo and looking for a safe place. I think that is why the walking dead comic and show do so well as even the heroes have agendas and quirks that make them more interesting than the shambling hordes….although the pain in the main protagonist’s eyes when he dispatches a small girl zombie, ..the choices are what makes it gripping.
    With world war z coming soon, the market will be hit with more” rush it out and get a pie slice” movies as well!


  2. There was a time when I would watch any movie with even a hint of a zombie in it. Over saturation of the market means that this zombie fan tends to avoid the bottom of the heap these days (just like I do with superhero films).

    This sounds like one to avoid. Thanks for watching it for me Mikko, so that I dont have to :/


    • I’m willing to take a failed movie bullet for my blogging buddies any day!


  3. You said “What most of them don’t know is that the Russians are carrying on with some zombie/undead SUPER soldier experiments” Not all zombies have to be slow, lumbering creatures who like brains. They are dead, but can come back to life as they used to be except they bite to kill, not shoot.



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