Outpost (2008)
By: Mr Intolerance on July 6, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
DVD
Sony (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 2.40:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, Spanish DD 5.1. English (FHI), Spanish, Greek, Danish, Hebrew, Hindi, Swedish, Turkish subtitles. 86 minutes
The Movie
Credits
Director: Steve Barker
Starring: Ray Stevenson, Julian Wadham, Richard Brake, Paul Blair, Brett Fancy, Enoch Frost, Julian Rivett, Michael Smiley, Johnny Meres
Screenplay: Rae Brunton
Country: UK
External Links
Purchase IMDB YouTube
Well, you've got to love any film that has elements of both war and horror, maintains an admirably eerie vibe, but also lashes out with some nasty violence. You can use, as the distributors have on the slick, The Bunker, The Keep and Deathwatch as ready reference points, although I'd probably throw in Shock Waves as a fourth – like that film, this one is set in a time contemporary to when it was made, but the after-effects of the war can be felt a long time after its end.

Basically D.C. (Ray Stevenson who played Titus Pullo in the HBO series Rome, and the next actor to play comic book vigilante The Punisher in Punisher: War Zone) heads a mixed bunch of mercenaries, who all appear to be from different racial backgrounds, into an unspecified Eastern European country, ostensibly hired to lead a six man fire-squad into a shall we say disputed area, providing security for a client who's not what he says he is. Given films like the Hostel series, if I was Eastern European, I'd take offence. The basic premise in either film is that the whole area is one big lawless, corrupt, godless free-for-all, and anything goes as long as you can pay for it.

The action starts almost immediately, as does the tension and the atmosphere. It doesn't take us (or the characters) long to work out that something is terribly amiss in this long-deserted bunker they've found themselves in, and not much longer to know that their client was lying to them about his real motive in wanting to be there – he's certainly not surveying land for his company – apart from anything else, who buys land in a war-zone? It also becomes readily apparent that they are not alone out there, although who the enemy is, is anyone's guess, given that the government and the never-named insurgency forces swap ownership of it on a regular basis, and that there are foreign troops in the area, too. That's what you get when you're in No-Man's Land.

The mercenaries are a pretty well-disciplined and professional bunch of soldiers (even though one of them is Michael Smiley, the guy who plays acid/ecstasy-casualty bike courier Tyres from UK sitcom Spaced – talk about playing against type!) who thankfully manage to avoid most of the cliché downfalls of this kind of ensemble action "survival horror" cast – there's no OTT character like Hudson from Aliens, no young kid with something to prove (again from Aliens the character of Gorman), no fascist bastard like Kaempffer in The Keep, or his counterpart Schenke in The Bunker, but they still manage to keep a high level of tough-guy banter and machismo that we're all familiar with and love. Stevenson's character is especially credible – I guess that's what you get from a good actor – and the only even vaguely sympathetic one of the whole bunch, but even so, he's capable of nastiness; they're quite an unlikeable group of lads. Their treatment of the survivor they find is pretty callous; maybe the director is trying to show us that idea that's become popular of late that that the colour of the uniforms is unimportant, and that war can turn you into a bad guy and make you do things that previously you wouldn't have done. Also, bear in mind, you can't even defend these guys by saying that they're doing their duty; these guys, as they themselves point out, kill for money – kind of hard to represent them as Sir Galahad given that concern. And there's certainly no spiritual element to any of them bar one, and given his chosen profession, it does come off like trying to retain a foot in both camps, as it were - hypocritical.

Still, when they come across a pile of bodies, one of whom is still alive, you can forgive them for getting a little anxious, especially as they've already taken fire from persons unknown on the surface. And the tension continues to mount. The survivor, unsurprisingly, isn't talking – you imagine being trapped under a large pile of bodies for an indeterminate period of time; it might start playing around with your reasoning skills, too. Our heroes start to wonder whether the locals might have been indulging in a little ethnic cleansing, burying the evidence here. Certainly it's not an unlikely scenario.

Night is coming down, and preparations have to be made, especially as now we definitely know it used to be an SS bunker, the line of thought is that it the unfriendly locals might want to avail themselves of all that mythical Nazi gold that's driven plots of films like Kelly's Heroes for a long time, and again, have the ring of truth about them. However, we soon realise that the client Mr Hunt (referred to by some of the men as "Mr Cunt") has no interest in gold – that's not what's valuable here – and that his intentions are quite possibly much more sinister. Plus, there's also the intrusion (via some effective boo-scares) of something else in the bunker and its immediate environs, something threatening and inimical – something evil.

The level of action, tension and violence escalates almost immediately and, with only one brief bit of expository dialogue to make some sense of things – it's totally necessary to the credibility of the plot - doesn't stop. As much as clichés annoy me – shorthand for lazy reviewers – this is indeed "edge of the seat viewing" for a discriminating horror audience, particularly one which likes a bit of survival horror with a fair degree of oomph.

That's it for the story kids – I may well have revealed too much already. I hope I haven't, because you really should watch this film. In a day and age where the only English-speaking horror seems to be either plot-less torture porn, re-makes of classics, re-makes of foreign language films or tired old teen slashers, Outpost is a breath of fresh air. Okay, it's not the most original film (my references to similarities to The Bunker and Shock Waves were not idle ones), but it's a bloody solid one – taut, tense and bleak. A worthy addition to the canon of UK horror, and one that shows there's life in the old boy yet.
Video
A good picture. Nothing more, nothing less – nice too see it in a 2.40:1 anamorphic aspect ratio – given the lack of extras, I was expecting full-screen. The colour is very muted (with no loss of sharpness) which adds to the bleak tone of the film, giving it a coldness and a grim edge.
Audio
The 5.1 audio track is adequate for its purpose as an action/horror film – loud and clear. The soundtrack definitely adds to the sense of threat and menace we get; it's very effective in transmitting the atmosphere.
Extra Features
The trailer and a bunch of unnecessary deleted scenes, and trailers for Hancock, the remake of April Fool's Day and Bats: Human Harvest. Sigh… Hardly a cornucopia of wonderfulness – some interviews might have been nice. The Region 1 release has nothing more to offer either.
The Verdict
A top notch horror film that actually manages to effectively combine an eerie atmosphere with some pretty strong violence. Outpost is highly entertaining, and it's definitely worth your watching it.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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