Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Directed by Marvin Kren
Starring Michael Fuith, Theo Trebs, Sebastian Achilles, Ingrid Beerbaum
Distributed by Revolver Entertainment
Entitled Rammbock (review here) in its native German language, director Marvin Kren’s take on the zombie genre is a mightily entertaining jolt to the system. Quick to the point, the film sees our lovelorn protagonist Michael (Fuith) visiting the apartment of his ex-girlfriend in Berlin, hoping that his personal appearance to return her keys will rekindle their relationship.
Turns out she isn’t home. Rather, there are a couple of plumbers in the apartment…one of whom almost immediately becomes uncontrollably aggressive. Michael and his newfound partner, the young Harper (Trebs), are forced to lock the now white-eyed and frothing tradesman out of the apartment in time to witness a bloodbath kicking off in the courtyard outside. The zombies have arrived, and Berlin is going to hell in a hand basket.
So far, so standard – and truthfully, Siege of the Dead is indeed a very straightforward and relatively unsurprising flick. Thing is: it’s also an incredibly assured and confident little film that just about nails all of the basics required for an enjoyable zombie movie. The main trick up its sleeve comes in the source of the zombie hordes. Here, a virus is loose which only manages to overwhelm the brain by flooding it during moments of heightened adrenaline. Those infected or bitten can effectively hold it off by remaining calm and consuming sedatives.
Of course, staying calm when a sea of hungry mouths want to eat you alive can prove rather difficult – and that’s not to mention other issues such as starvation. Communicating as quietly as possible with neighbours across the courtyard via windows, everyone in the building attempts to figure out an escape plan while Michael strives to locate his absent ex.
Going against most modern zombie flicks, Siege of the Dead is actually very low on the gore scale with a distinct lack of graphic violence and bloodshed. One nasty bitten throat is about as bad as it gets. Yet, even for a gore hound like me this fact is never a bugbear due to the involving nature of the story, characters and performances. The cast are uniformly great, with the two leads perfectly embodying the essential “everyman” qualities and Kren’s direction is spot on (even if he does refuse to stray into truly challenging or inventive territory).
If there is any major problem with Siege of the Dead, it’s that there simply isn’t enough of it. Clocking in at just over an hour, it doesn’t feel complete. More time to get to know the other inhabitants and a few more life-or-death set-pieces would have really pushed this one round to home base. The ending, too, while attempting to pull off a foreboding cliffhanger, is just far too abrupt and unsatisfying. The emotional culmination of one character’s arc doesn’t pay off as well as it should, with the film simply trailing off instead of finishing amidst the explosion of poignancy it strives for – and sincerely deserved to reach.
Revolver Entertainment’s DVD release of the film is perfectly fine in terms of audio and video, but nothing to write home about (especially considering the basic Dolby Stereo soundtrack). As far as special features go, there are…none. Still, the film is good enough to warrant a rent – or a purchase if you’re an ardent zombie fan. The short run time is likely to both please and annoy – it’s a quick, tense and enjoyable blast of zombie mayhem but you’ll be left wanting more by the time the credits roll.
3 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5