Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rammbock: A Fresh Take on a Rotting Subgenre

Here at the Midnight Cheese, few things tug at our heartstrings quite the way that zombie films do. Actually it's more a vice-gripped, grasping tear at our heartstrings, followed by some breathless moans of delight and a hearty chomp down of dead teeth. So when we were given the chance to take an early look at the new DVD release of Rammbock: Berlin Undead, we pulled our shotguns off the mantle to repel those shambling monstrosities with good old American firepower!

From Midnight Cheese

Hold on a minute there John Wayne, this is not that sort of zombie movie. And you know what? That's exactly why it’s successful. Rammbock centers around the misadventures of broken hearted Michael, who hitches a ride into Berlin to try and win back his exgirlfriend Gabi, under the guise of returning her keys (Smooth). This is where our ride kicks off, as we waste almost no time immersing ourselves in the undead masses. Michael links up with Harper, a youthful handyman's apprentice, and the two manage to secure Gabi's apartment for the time being.

"But what about Gabi?" I know, shouldn't she be there? Turns out she just stepped out minutes before Michael arrived and could be anywhere. To make matters worse, our hero dropped his cell phone in the mad struggle to shore up their barricade in the first place. It's a very compelling hook, one which sinks in thanks largely to the performance of Michael Fuith. As our hero, he's very vulnerable but he's also very likable and determined. He and Harper, played by Theo Trebs, play off of each other very well and clearly have good on screen chemistry; which is absolutely essential in the narrow confines of Gabi's Berlin apartment complex.

The location scouts deserve a cookie here. The narrow apartment complex really pushes the claustrophobia up several notches, very much like the Spanish film [REC] (which I also highly recommend). Interestingly, the survivors can interact with each other via windows overlooking a small courtyard shared by the apartments-turned prison cells. But they can’t help one another, however much they might wish to.

From Midnight Cheese

Where Rammbock really sets itself apart, though, is with its clever spin on the zombie infection concept. Of the hundreds of films to come out during the last decade’s zombie boom, the vast majority of them are completely content to imitate exactly what has come before with very little variation. Perhaps they try to ratchet up the gore quotient or make the zombies run faster (or make them strippers, yikes), but all in all it’s fast become a stale, rotting subgenre. The zombies in Rammbock aren’t trying to tear you limb from limb or eat you. They’re rabid humans. They’re attacking to maim and they’re trying to bite survivors. The bite imparts an infection; pretty standard fare so far, right?

Ok check this out: the infection doesn’t turn you into a zombie unless your body produces adrenaline which moves the infection to your brain and causes an irreversible transformation. This sets up some pretty interesting scenarios. How do you keep yourself from triggering your fight or flight during the height of a zombie apocalypse? The film showcases several fascinating attempts to survive a bite infection, which is all the more important since the body can fight it off given enough time. However once you have to fight for your life or even just get over excited, it’s permanent zombification time. I won’t spoil the most effective technique for combating the undead, but it’s not guns. In fact, there aren’t any fire arms or head smashing in Rammbock. There is a lot of smart thinking going on and a handful on ingenuity.

At sixty-three minutes in length, Rammbock does not disappoint, packing more of a ride than most of its contemporaries do in ninety minutes. The new DVD release includes the standard behind the scenes feature we’ve come to expect and then delights with a very funny zombification public service announcement bonus. The newly minted DVD was released this week. Check out Rammbock: Berlin Undead, the most original take on the zombie concept since 28 Days Later.

From Midnight Cheese

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