Rammbock: Berlin Undead (2010)

MAY 21, 2011


One of the cooler ventures my other site has taken on as of late is a distribution arm called "Bloody Disgusting Selects", which will bring a different independent/foreign film to AMC theaters each month. They only play twice a week at random times (10 pm on Wednesdays, 11:59pm on Fridays), and based on the attendance for Rammbock that probably won't expand, as there were only 7 people in my theater including me, and two of them walked out when they saw the movie was subtitled (or had just wandered into the wrong theater). Still, anything that gives wider exposure to these sort of movies is a good thing, and it was cool seeing the B-D logo on the big screen.

Anyway, the movie is pretty good. It's so damn short (64 minutes with credits) that it barely qualifies as a feature, but it also means that there isn't a lot of wasted time or slow moments (hell, I even stayed awake for the entire thing! Not even my standard 2-3 minute doze!), which is always nice. It also had a fun lead character; a sort of German Paul Giamatti type schlub who traveled to Berlin to give his long-distance girlfriend some keys that she had left behind. With so many zombie movies focusing on hardass types, or some sort of law enforcement/military personnel, it's nice to have an everyman in one, as such types are usually only used in more comedic types like Shaun Of The Dead.

Not that the movie was without humor; there's a wonderfully odd running gag about a bear suit (I have no explanation for what it was used for - was his girlfriend a furry or something?), and Michael's initial obliviousness to what was going on was worthy of a few chuckles, as was his irrational opposition to making weapons out of his girlfriend's silverware. And I LOVED one bit, when Michael's newfound friend (a young kid - good dynamic) snaps a pic of Michael standing proudly next to a makeshift battering ram that they devised in order to break down a wall. But for the most part, it's a fairly serious, straightforward, largely conventional zombie flick - folks are trapped in a location, seeking safety and a way to escape while avoiding being bit. There isn't much that is added to the mythology, and there's no explanation for where they came from (at least I don't think so, there's a radio broadcast that goes partially untranslated).

With one exception, at least I think: bright light scares the zombies off, due to their changed retinas. So cameras and assorted portable work lights become weapons, which is pretty cool; I don't think I've seen that used before (someone correct me if I'm wrong!). I also liked that the other characters were trapped in their own apartments; the building had a sort of horseshoe shape with a courtyard in the middle, so the 5-6 survivors would communicate through windows by yelling across to the way. Kind of like Andy the gun shop guy in the Dawn remake, but times five. But again, the movie is incredibly short, so they don't really get to use the potentially exciting setup for much.

And one of those few times didn't make much sense to me. A guy in the apartment across offers to trade food for some sedatives (they slow the zombie infection down; his wife had been bit but hadn't turned yet), and this sets off a good chunk of the action - but why didn't their apartment (or the one they busted into) have any food? The invasion just started at the beginning of the movie, and there's no real significant passage of time (I think the movie takes place over three days MAX, might only be two), so the idea that food was somehow a rare commodity rang a bit false. Do Germans not keep food in their apartments?

Also, and I looked for a while and couldn't find anything, it's just TOO short. If it only takes an hour to tell the story you have to tell, fine, but there are a few things that are glossed over or just unexplained, which there isn't an excuse for in a short feature. If the movie is too long and they need to cut a few things, fine, but not when it's shorter than an episode of Celebrity Apprentice without commercials. A major character turns zombie without any explanation, another hangs himself before we got a chance to know enough about him to care (yet they cut to his hanging body like 5 times), and, again, why did she have a bear suit? Even with these things in the movie it would barely break 70 minutes, so I can't imagine they were cut for pacing or whatever. But information about the movie is hard to come by, and IMDb does not list a longer running time (in fact they list a shorter one - but I checked my watch to be sure it wasn't under an hour).

It was also hard to find information on Zombiefication, the awful short film that played before it. I guess these will be part of Bloody's goal; attaching shorts to the films to both sweeten the deal for the ticket buyer and also give a nice platform to a budding talent. Unfortunately they went with a pretty bad short to kick things off with, as it's yet another "Zombies are an every day problem" piece. These sort of things were played out four years ago when they made Fido (an entire MOVIE based on this one-joke concept), so we certainly don't need another. This one sort of parodies the in flight safety videos that you have to watch when you fly, except it takes place in a movie theater, which kills half the joke right on the spot. It's also too damn long (ironic on a couple levels); at 30-60 seconds it might have been a cute and harmless diversion, but it seems to run about 5-6, which is longer than the damn things its parodying (and not even as funny as Virgin's, for the record). Hopefully future shorts will match the level of the movie; I can't help but wonder if those two walkouts may have given the movie more of a chance if this thing hadn't brought the entertainment level down (not a single person laughed at any of the jokes in the short).

The barely-feature length and inopportune times may turn folks off from checking the movie out in their local AMC for a full price ticket, but I assume a DVD release will be forthcoming. It's not a particularly great zombie movie, but it IS an enjoyable one, and a more cost-effective way of watching will only make it look better. Next month's selection is YellowBrickRoad, which I saw and mostly enjoyed at last year's Screamfest. Hopefully the poor attendance doesn't kill AMC's interest; there's something sort of novel about seeing a little German zombie movie in the multiplex right next to a big IMAX screen showing Thor 3D.

What say you?


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