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Every now and then horror fans are lucky enough to stumble across a great find--films like Dog Soldiers, Cube, or Audition. These are the type of films that seem to come out of nowhere, catch us off guard, and deliver the sort of horror flick experience that simply doesn't come around often enough. Outpost wants to be that type of movie. Unfortunately, it is not.
Set somewhere in a war-torn eastern European country, the film starts with the mysterious Hunt (Julian Wadham) soliciting the services of DC (Ray Stevenson), a no-nonsense mercenary. DC assembles a grizzled assortment of guns-for-hire, and they venture off into the forest with Hunt in search of something. The tight-lipped Hunt is in no hurry to discuss what he has contracted the mercenaries to help him find, which leads to speculation among the men. Eventually, they stumble across a bunker that appears to have been abandoned for decades. But once Hunt, DC and his men begin snooping around inside, they make two discoveries. First, they find a room full of catatonic men stripped naked, who look as if they have been tortured and nearly starved to death. Second, they discover that the bunker was a Nazi outpost. And then things start to get weird.
Outside the bunker, DC's men come under attack from hidden forces that disappear as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared. Unsure of how many hostile numbers they are facing, DC prepares a line of defense, but something just doesn't seem right. Well, it turns out that Hunt has been looking for some sort of...thing. It is a bit hard to describe what this thing is, but basically it is some sort of machine that does some weird things, which the screenwriter hopes the audience will buy, thanks to some muddled dialog. You all know what I'm talking about. The machine Hunt discovers is the equivalent to the dreaded particle destabilizer that rearranges the quantum bioshitzits of the polarized spectrum of the medulla oblongata's epidermal tartar sauce. Who knows what that means, but it sounds convincing when trying to describe a machine that somehow has managed to turn Nazi soldiers into a platoon of supernatural, goose-stepping zombies that can travel through dimensional rifts in time and space--or something like that. All I know for sure is that the machine was somehow capable of creating supernatural Nazi zombies, and these nefarious creatures are now hunting DC and his men. Oh, the horror!
Outpost has the makings of a solid horror flick, but it never seems to come together, making the film more of a missed opportunity than anything else. The film has a creepy atmosphere, and does a decent job of setting up more of a haunted house vibe, but it stops short of going anywhere of merit with the material and really having fun with the story. For one thing, the film simply moves a bit too slow. A gradual build-up is fine if there is the right combination of character development and scares to sustain the audience through the first act, but that's not the case with Outpost. The mercenaries are little more than cardboard cut-outs with little by way of distinctive personality characteristics to differentiate one from the other. In films like this it is obvious that pretty much every living breathing person is simply fodder for the unstoppable killing machines that drive this genre, but that doesn't mean the filmmakers shouldn't at least make the audience care about the victims. But you never care about any of the guys in Outpost--primarily because they don't exist as characters so much as contrivances to move the story to its inevitable conclusion--and their deaths have no resonance whatsoever. How can you be moved by the death of character you didn't care about?
At the same time, the film does a terrible job of developing the monsters as well. This is not to say I want to be cheering on a team of Nazis--zombie or otherwise--but in a horror film you must be either invested in the victims or rooting for the killers, and not just impatiently waiting for the monsters to kill everyone off so you can turn the movie off and find something better to watch. But with Outpost that is pretty much what it comes down to.
Taken on its own, it is possible for Outpost to be a mildly entertaining film. But the problem is that this story has been done so many times in so many far better films, ranging from Aliens to Predator to Dog Soldiers to The Lost Patrol, that the flaws in Outpost are that much more apparent. It is not unreasonable to expect more from this film, simply because we've seen it so many times in the past, and it worked much better all those other times.
Outpost is presented in 2.40:1 anamorphic widescreen. The image transfer itself is good, but the picture has a grainy quality at times, and has a washed-out look. The lighting in some of the night scenes is so dark that it is difficult to see what is going on. This may be an attempt to be stylish and create tension, but for the most part it just makes it hard to see the film.
Outpost is presented in 5.1 Dolby Digital. The sound quality is good, but the mix itself is a bit low.
Seven deleted scenes constitute the entirety of the bonus materials. All seven scenes represent the wise decision to trim as much unneeded material from a film that was already dragging and bogged down with poor writing.
Outpost is one of those horror movies that can be okay if watched under the right circumstances--like when you've watched everything else and you don't feel like reading a book--but it is quite away from actually being good. It is the sort of film that you catch on cable, fall asleep while watching, but don't worry about finding out how it ends. You can rent it, but make sure you rent something else with it, because it is not entertaining enough to keep you feeling satisfied once it is over.
David Walker is the creator of BadAzz MoFo, a nationally published film critic, and the Writer/Director of Black Santa's Revenge with Ken Foree now on DVD [Buy it now]