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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Day 260: The Bunker

The Bunker
Pvt. Skeletonface reporting for duty, Sir!

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing! There are no shortage of war movies and there are countless horror movies out there, but rarely do the two genres meet. It's actually surprising how few war/horror movies are out there given the fact that "war is hell". There is already so much blood and carnage in war that you'd think it would be a natural setting for horror. The same could be said for Westerns in horror. These movies do exist, there has just never been a great standout. What is it about war and horror that are so difficult to mix together into one great movie? All it takes is one great war-themed horror movie to spawn a a practically untouched subgenre.

The Bunker is a 2001 supernatural/psychological horror movie directed by Rob Green (House [2008], The Trick). Set near the German-Belgian border in 1944, a group of German Panzer soldiers are ambushed by American soldiers. They seek refuge in an old bunker being manned by a teenage soldier named Neumann (Andrew-Lee Potts, Primeval, 1408) and an old soldier named Mirus (John Carlisle, The Omega Factor, The Avengers). When they contact their commanding unit for instructions, they are told to just wait. Mirus informs the soldiers that there are tunnels below the bunker holding ammunition, but he has never ventured far into them. He tells a story of the forest they are in, how a plague ravaged a town and a priest convinced people to murder the infected. As the night progresses, strange sounds are heard from the forest, which the soldiers believe to be Americans. We also see flashes of a traumatic event that occurred previous to the soldiers' arrival at the bunker. Soon Mirus ventures down into the tunnels, believing he is speaking to his dead son. Another soldier follows, and when their commander wakes up, he believes they have deserted and forces the rest of the group down into the tunnels. Deep inside, they discover a pit filled with bones and rotting corpses. The soldiers begin seeing things in the tunnel, believing they are being tricked and psychologically tortured by the Americans. The Germans begin turning on each other, unable to get a grasp on what is going on and who is down there with them. Who or what is haunting the soldiers and how does it fit in with the recent past?

"You can't just yell "Blammo!" You have to actually shoot!"

Initially, I thought The Bunker was going to be a supernatural revenge movie involving dead villagers getting their revenge on Nazi soldiers. Sadly, this isn't the case, which is a shame because who doesn't like seeing Nazis die horrible deaths? The movie puts me in a tough spot because I don't want to feel sympathetic towards Nazis. The Bunker goes for a mixture of psychological horror and supernatural horror, though neither are very good. While we do see shadowy soldiers towards the end of the movie, most of the supernatural elements are implied with shadow and flickering light. Paranoia is the main factor in the movie, and while not executed perfectly, the movie does well enough to get us from point A to point B. It makes me wonder why the filmmakers even bothered trying to make this a horror movie instead of just a psychological thriller. The movie clearly doesn't have a large budget, so if you can't pull off spirits, then it's just not worth it.

Most of the money went into sets and uniforms, which both look very good. The acting is good throughout with a cast of people that you may recognize from bit parts in other movies. The film is fairly dark, not in content, but in actual color. While it makes things difficult to see at times, this styling actually serves a purpose. The dark colors are juxtaposed with the bright, dream-like flashbacks that inform the audience of what transpired before the soldiers arrived at the bunker. The atmosphere is fairly good and there's enough suspense to keep the audience interested in seeing what will happen. Unfortunately, the big reveal is kind of a dud, especially when you look at the DVD cover and expected something else. There is a mediocre amount of violence with one good scene involving a flare gun. It's certainly not enough for a movie set in World War II.
"Who left ze smoke machine on again?"

The Bunker had a lot of potential, but just couldn't pull it together for a good horror movie. The psychological fear and paranoia is decent, but the supernatural elements are too sparse to make everything come together. The movie would have been better off as a straight war film than horror. There is nothing particularly scary about the film and the lack of violence in a war movie is disappointing. The costumes and sets look very good and the solid acting helps carry the movie. The Bunker isn't a bad movie, I was just expecting a lot better. If you're looking for a better mix of war and horror, you're better off with Deathwatch.


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