A scene from War of the DeadThe second screening on zombie appreciation night at Toronto After Dark was the world premiere of War of the Dead. The film that was in production for nearly a decade was shot in Lithuania for approximately £1.3 million ($2 million CAD). For all its expense, the film’s lengthy assembly appears to have benefitted it in some ways, but hurt it in others.

Set in World War II, a group of allied American and Finnish soldiers venture deep into a Russian forest to investigate a Nazi bunker. However, the captain uncovers a terrifying secret and the soldiers suddenly find themselves under attack by an unstoppable army of the undead.

Though extremely dark, the film is visually arresting. Through the endless gloom, the soldiers explore these abandoned buildings that look wholly authentic. However, the visual bleakness is the aspect that stands out. The detail revealed in the shadows is extraordinary, as is the filmmaker’s full use of the sets. Moreover, the zombie attacks look good. In their opposing uniforms, the clashes between the living and undead are violent and bloody.

Unfortunately, the film suffers from a lack of story. Outside of the plotline mentioned above, there isn’t much narrative. The structure basically consists of the soldiers finding the bunker, being attacked by zombies, changing locations, being attacked again and repeating the cycle. The lack of story is regrettable, as the movie is so visually strong that a little more attention to the narrative could have made it a well-rounded film.

The zombies are fast and ugly. They appear suddenly, reaping carnage and quickly diminishing the allied ranks. However, the narrative shows the battle against zombies is endless and brutal.

War of the Dead is not as entertaining as the Nazi zombie picture Dead Snow, but it certainly had potential.

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