Top 10 War-Set Horror Flicks!
Heads-up! What's the last good war-set horror flick you saw? The least really good one? Not sure about you, but I've always held a strong affinity for horror films that take place in the already hellish landscape of war. Or, if not directly, the kinds that deal with the postpartum psychological ramifications of close combat. I mean, most straight-up war pictures are horrifying enough...just demoralizing beyond belief. So when the added supernatural flavor is peppered in, be it in the mold of zombified and lycanthropic soldiers, prisoners of war subjected to torturous barbarism, infantrymen forced into cannibalism, etc...shit always comes off as doubly daunting. Anyway, with the recent arrival of the trailer for THE GUEST, not to mention news of Lee Pace signing on to star in a flick called PRISONERS OF WAR, it looks like the war-horror subgenre is on the comeback. So hey, let's help these mofos sharpen the artillery. Lock and load y'all...it's time for our Top 10 War-Set Horror Flicks!
Really though, what's a serious horror film feting without the inclusion of A). A movie from the 70s? And B). A movie made abroad? We wouldn't think of it, so here we are highlighting SHOCKWAVES - the 1977 German zombie joint about a band of shipwrecked tourists who find refuge on an island overrun by undead Nazi infantrymen. Underwater Nazi zombies at that! Interesting little movie, made memorable by the way the zombies kill people. They don't nastily chomp on brains and suck on richly coagulated entrails, no, they simple drown mofos to death. And once drowned, you instantly become a unified zombie in their malicious SS brigade. Great cameo by the legendary Peter Cushing as the mad-scientist harvesting such zombie army!
This has to be the most esoteric on the list. Seriously, have you even heard of the 1988 Chinese movie MEN BEHIND THE SUN, much less seen it? Well, this one is some gnarly shite! Here's the setup. During WW2, Japanese soldiers capture various Chinese and Russian enemies and send them to a death-camp. But not just any death-camp. A heinously subhuman experimental death-trough where the captured are used as guinea pigs to create deadly biological weaponry. I'm talking bacterial diseases! In terms of shock cinema of epic proportions, MEN BEHIND THE SUN is on the legendary list with stuff like CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, CALIGULA, SALO, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, etc. And so popular was the flick in Asia, three sequels were made, one in 1992, '94 and '95.
Ah, DEAD SNOW! Of all the zombified soldier flicks that have flooded the market in the past decade or so, Tommy Wirkola's wintery pitch-black horror-comedy remains the most memorable. So funny, so gorily violent, so tonally sure of itself...it's no wonder Wirkola went on to helm the big-budget Hollywood mash-up HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. And so popular remained DEAD SNOW, about a group of skiing med students bombarded by a legion of spuming Nazi zombies, that Wirkola decided to direct a sequel called DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD. The sequel is currently making the festival rounds before landing on DVD in its native Sweden this October. Can't wait!
Ben Wheatley's slow-burning tale of a paid mercenary in THE KILL LIST sent deep into the heart of darkness is kind of a new addition to the war-torn horror subgenre, but it's no less effective. Fuck me, the last 15 minutes? Bonkers! And aside from the commentary on growth industry of illegally paid mercenaries, is just how unpredictable THE KILL LIST remains throughout. I mean, for all intents and purposes, it starts out as a family drama, then escalates into a high-stakes thriller before descending into a bloodcurdling horror in the final frame. Great mixture of genres, not necessarily tones, that all slowly simmer to a boiling eruption of unforeseen terror. Now we'll happily watch anything Wheatley puts out.
Co-written by Darren Aronfsky, we've always held quite an affinity for the way the 2002 psychological submarine movie BELOW slowly builds its tension. And then, just when you're almost lulled to sleep, BANG, the last half hour f*cks your head up good! Also, amid the dark and dank claustrophobic environs, a lot of fun lies in the mystery of what is actually happening in the WWII set-film. Is the sub haunted? Are the crew members dead? Is there a supernatural force taking hold of them under the surface? What the hell! And what sells the mystery so hard is the superb cast, headed by Bruce Greenwood, Matthew Davis and Olivia Williams. Oh, and an early turn by Zack Galifianakis make this my favorite David Twohy film as well!
F*ck me standing, I want to propose marriage to ILSA, SHE WOLF OF THE SS!!! Played with the perfect touch of camp, caprice and sadomasochistic sleaze by Dyanne Thorne - consider this an all inclusive love-fest for the entire ISLA catalogue (HAREM KEEPER OF THE OIL SHEIKS, THE TIGRESS OF SIBERIA, THE WICKED WARDEN). But SHE WOLF is the first, and best, as Isla plays the evil Nazi warden of a experimental death camp. She gorily maims, she bloodily butchers, she tantalizingly tortures...all as repercussion to any and all limp-dick soldiers who can't lay serious pipe the way she desires. The way she needs. Seriously, that's the movie. If you can't satisfy Ilsa's lusty urges properly, your ass is ground-up fly-meat. Like I said, PROPOSAL!
What the hell, SALO is too damn outrageous to pass up, even if the action takes place in the vestibules of high-society rather than the trenches of dogged combat. That said, it is set in the Nazi occupied state of Salo, Italy in 1944. So the war is most certainly in the ether. If you've not seen this utterly odious piece of Italian celluloid, you owe to yourself to check it out at least once. You won't be able to shake it though, bet! You see, it follows four upper-crust Libertines who send out for 12 perfect specimen of young boys and girls. Then what do they do? Torture and abuse them physically and sexually in the most degrading ways imaginable. Sodomy, homosexuality, coprophilia, transvestism, S&M, rape, masturbation...FRIGHTENING!
F*ck yeah we're going to keep beating the drum for Antonia Bird's 1999 cannibalism flick RAVENOUS until it gets the credit it deserves. As it just so happens though, the backdrop of the Mexican-American War makes it relevant here, especially since the harrowing circumstances deriving from said war are what springboard the entire story. A story of necessity. Of survival. Of primalistic triumph. Wonderfully realistic turns by Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle, Jeremy Davies, David Arquette, John Spencer, Jeffrey Jones and Neal McDonough - not to mention the gorgeous locations and sumptuous cinematography - make RAVENOUS an A-list tale of wartime terror!
With the stringent bark and scathing bite of DOG SOLDIERS, British director Neil Marshall made quite the unavoidable arrival in Hollywood. What a first feature! I Love this flick too, about a remote Scottish battalion whose training exercise in the wild is interrupted by a foamingly rabid pack of hyper-werewolves. A man's movies through-and-through, sans a single female, all testosterone and primal priapism. And of course, dangling entrails and fatally rotten flesh-wounds! What also stands out about the movie is its use of practical FX, made right before the huge CG boom. Part of the choice was budgetary as well, no doubt, but the overall experience feels raw, visceral and enthrallingly real.
Okay okay, so only snippets of battleground footage is interspersed throughout, with most of the psychological terror coming upon return home from Vietnam, but so what, JACOB'S LADDER is a goddamn spine-tingling masterpiece! That last shot. Your slow realization. The splintering chills. Masterful! Massive props to director Adrian Lyne and star Tim Robbins for treating veterans with the respect they deserve, albeit through an ass-backwards mind-fuck of a nightmarish hallucination. Or better yet, for speaking to the power of the Vietnamese grass the vets were smoking. My word! Nah, real shite. It's easy to cast this aside as a B-level throwaway thriller, but watch it closely, JACOB'S LADDER has more rungs than you think!