“OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ” (Movie Review)
Despite being much more imaginative and frightening than their popular subgenre counterpart DEAD SNOW, the OUTPOST films have been somewhat underrated by horror fans. By keeping something of a straight face in their depiction of undead Nazis, they mostly eschew the camp factor often associated with the concept, and perhaps are disregarded as a result. However, certain hardcore followers have stood by the series for its legitimate style and storytelling merits, and the newest addition to the franchise, OUTPOST: RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ, retains those merits as it further explores the mythology behind the films.
RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ, now on VOD from XLrator Media, serves as the series’ first full-blooded prequel, exploring the mechanisms that created the Nazi zombies while pitting a team of outmatched Russian operatives against sadistic German scientists and soldiers. Alas, the spectral nature of the zombies portrayed in the first two films has been stripped from them in this entry, although it’s justified, as these creatures are mere early experiments begotten from the same, albeit imperfect, technology. The true disappointment, though, lies in the lack of organic character development, as the survivalist elements of the story provide little in the way of any emotional arcs or raising the stakes. However, the film still provides an entertaining and brutal take on the material, and fans of the previous installments will be pleased to see logical nods to and reprises of their signature moments.
The movie’s real secret weapon is producer-turned-first-time-director Kieran Parker, retaining his predecessors’ sleek, sepia-soaked visual style while applying a new perspective necessary for this story. Parker and DP Carlos De Carvalho give RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ a unique, industrial visual style, while making the most of Rae Brunton’s action-heavy script to give the film more interest beyond just its bloody hand-to-hand combat. The movie may not offer anything new or different in its characters or narrative, Parker does know how to construct an entertaining film, keeping the pacing tight and the plot turns rather unpredictable—especially considering how bleak the other OUTPOSTs have been.
RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ also sports a serviceable if not very distinguished cast, many of whom are mainly here just to play tough, and are a far cry dramatically from the likes of Michael Smiley and Ray Stevenson in the first OUTPOST. This entry is led by Bryan Larkin, who definitely looks the part of a dangerous member of the Spetsnaz and is satisfactory as the lead, while somewhat constricted by an underwritten role. Velibor Topic and Iván Kamarás are also good as his closest compatriots, but similarly suffer from one-dimensional roles. Michael McKell occasionally breathes life into the proceedings as the weasely key villain, but the best performance is given by Ben Lambert as an American POW, stealing his limited scenes with a rogue charm and fairly well-defined personality.
Despite its flaws, RISE OF THE SPETSNAZ is still a fun watch, offering enough for action and horror fans alike. It’s bloody and brutal while sleek and respectful of its place within the franchise, and sure to please fans of the first two films as well as the unfamiliar. Narratively restrained while unrelenting in its violence, it retains the franchise’s signature carnage while adding a claustrophobic atmosphere, which should appeal to more than just fans of mindless mayhem. While something as character-driven as the original would have definitely been welcome, the OUTPOST films have yet to wear out their inspired premise, and it represents a promising debut at the helm by Parker.