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rochefort [Film Festival 10.03.10] Germany post apocalyptic zombies movie review horror

Year: 2010
Directors: Marvin Kren
Writers: Benjamin Hessler
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 7 out of 10

Zombies again, folks, this time in Berlin. Michi (Michael Fuith) has been on the outs with his girl Gabi (Anka Graczyk) for some time, and decides to surprise her by showing up unannounced at her apartment to try and rekindle their glory days. When he gets there, she's not home, her apartment instead occupied by a couple of workers who are busy doing repairs. Except for that one repairman who is puking up black bile and going into seizures. Before you can ask "Is there still life in this old dog?", the apartment complex becomes infested with an ever-growing number of the infected, and Michi has to choose between finding either his ex or an escape route.

Chances are you remember the scene in "28 Days Later" where Jim and Selena make their way into the tenement building and meet Brendan Gleeson's Frank and his daughter. "Rammbock"'s entire runtime plays out like a prequel to that one scene, the story taking place solely in the apartments and courtyard of Gabi's building. It also features the fast runners, so whether or not we're even using the term "zombie" really hinges on how much of a Romero purist you happen to be, but it seems reasonable to suggest that this is Germany's answer to, at the very least, the aforementioned "28 Days Later" and maybe Zack Snyder's "Dawn" remake. A recurring theme with a lot of the films with more obvious genre roots at this year's Fantastic Fest seemed to be state-of-the-art reduxes of tried and true staples, and throughout the fest I've seen that theme apply to home invasion, serial killers, revenge movies and, in the case of "The Dead" and "Rammbock", zombies. And over the years with this particular subgenre, the bar has risen steadily higher with each quality entry, so much so that it's hard to believe we won't reach some sort of critical mass fatigue any day now. Some would argue we already have, but I can't help but disagree. Believe it or not, "Rammbock" succeeds beautifully, not so much as a revisionist work, but rather as proof that the zombie film has more or less crossed over into a new kind of comfort zone, maybe more so than any other horror subgenre.

Perhaps this is all due to the way Romero structured the initial "Dead" movies as standalone stories with no recurring main human characters or locales, while each new entry (until the reset with "Diary") was clearly further along the post-apocalyptic timeline than the one before, less sequel than a subsequent chapter in a book with a massive, seemingly unending, constantly changing cast of characters. This went a long way to distinguishing the Romero zombie and its children more than any other movie monster. Vampires, werewolves, mummies and the like have become movie staples so far removed from their first appearances that they have, in many cases, transformed into something else entirely (I'm looking at the fairies disguised as vampires in "Twilight", of course). But Romero so effectively appropriated the zombie from African and voodoo culture and transplanted it into the Western gestalt that he is associated with and kind of abstractly owns the zombie concept, even more than, say, Bram Stoker is associated with the vampire. For me, the subsequent flood of zombie lore resembles the way numerous authors have written new works for Howard's "Conan" or Doyle's "Sherlock Holmes", and us horror fans can either judge them as standalone works or rank them in the overall expanded universe. Which is basically a long-winded way of commenting on how awesome it is to be a fan of a genre that can, depending on the filmmaker, either re-invent itself or simply exist as a new, quality chapter in the central tome. File "Rammbock" as the latter. Much less of a comedy than "Shaun of the Dead", but nowhere near as bleak as "28 Days" or most of the seminal works, most of the humor in "Rammbock" is from the "comedy of discomfort" school, and rarely aspires for out and out laughs. In fact, its closest cousin would probably be "Dead Set", the excellent 2008 British miniseries that balanced its borderline ridiculous concept (zombies meet "Big Brother") with a solidly-drawn cast of characters and take-no-prisoners horror.

My only real gripe is that, at around 60 minutes, "Rammbock" only barely qualifies as a feature, and that can't help but raise a question or two as to whether or not director Marvin Kren or screenwriter Benjamin Hessler had the chops to make this thing work with an additional twenty or so minutes. But what Hessler does give us in the script is super-tight, and Kren compensates plenty with the technical aspects, particularly the photography, since this baby looks utterly fantastic. It's all good enough that you're left wishing Kren had taken the plunge and chanced that extra half hour, but what we're given is still, yet again, proof that any proclamation of the zombie film's demise is drastically, and thankfully, premature.

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Kal Verd (11 years ago) Reply

"It also features the fast runners, so whether or not we're even using the term "zombie" really hinges on how much of a Romero purist you happen to be"

Really how fast they move doesn't come into it a Zombie is a reanimated corpse simple as that the people in films like 28 days later are not dead just infected. I must admit it annoys me when people particularly reviewers don't know the difference. If the "Zombies" in this film die or are killed then come back to life then they are Zombies if they don't die but instead become infected with some kind of virus then become savages then they are not Zombies.


Anonymous (11 years ago) Reply

Hey Kal, look at that poster, dude. The word "zombies" is right there. You say you're annoyed that reviewers "don't know the difference", but can't be bothered to even pay attention to the fact that it's the filmmakers, and not the reviewer, who make the distinction necessary. Lighten up, Francis.


Kal Verd (11 years ago) Reply

I was mainly trying to point out that the reviewer here is wrong in comparing 28 Days Later and Zombie films like Dawn of the Dead because 28 Days isn't a Zombie film. Also whats on a poster and whats in a film are not always the same thing. Zombies put a lot more ass's in seats than... "Infected People" (said with scary voice).


bad dog (11 years ago) Reply

Actually, if you want to be a purist, Romero zombies are not zombies at all either, they are (cue scary organic music) reanimated, cannibalistic corpses. The real zombies are the creatures of African and Caribbean lore.

So I guess we have to stop using the word zombie at all. OR we could simply accept that the zombie genre has evolved to include rabid or infected people and not get hung up on it. I vote for option B.

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