Outpost 3: Rise Of The Spetsnaz

Outpost 3: Rise Of The Spetsnaz


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

You might think it churlish to complain about historical inaccuracies in a movie where members of an elite military unit are captured by Nazis who want to reanimate the dead, but these things are important. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with dragging the occult or weird science into the Second World War, which is not to say that it can't be problematic; it's just that if an audience is going to be asked to suspend disbelief it behoves film-makers to try to avoid insulting their intelligence.

Opening with an elderly Russian man drinking heavily in remembrance of fallen colleagues, the third instalment in the Outpost franchise jumps back in time and starts robbing itself of narrative tension, any pretense of consistency, and then audience goodwill.

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Somewhere on 'The Eastern Front', in June of '45, there is a Soviet unit. It's probably not as far North as Finland, nor as far South as the Balkans, nor as far East as Stalingrad, nor as far West as Berlin, but it's definitely almost certainly somewhere about there. Is it behind enemy lines? It doesn't matter - our brave comrades have found a road that isn't on the German maps they've acquired. They're going to lie in wait and ambush a convoy of vehicles that belong to historical reenactors that are clearly too borrowed and too valuable to actually explode so some jump cuts and optimism will have to do. After slaughter that's workmanlike (both in front of and behind the camera) they fail to adhere to a basic lesson of guerilla warfare. It's "hit AND run", not "hit and then hang about until a relief column of panzergrenadiers in a halftrack turn up and take a few of you prisoner to take you back to their secret zombie base". Alright, it's a conceit to turn this into "The Great Escape From Monsters", but seeing our potential survivors get thinned out this quickly robs us of guessing who'll be "final girl".

Once we're into the secret base it becomes clear that these Nazis aren't as compelling as Tarantino's, which isn't a surprise, but even in the similarly revisionist and B-movie inspired Iron Sky they had a few things going for them. Outpost 3's main problem, however, is not that it lacks a Christoph Waltz or an Udo Kier, but that it's not very good.

With procedures that make Umbrella Corporation and InGen look like experts in Health & Safety, it's surprising that the escape takes as long to start. While the Death Star's superlaser crew didn't have railings to stop them from falling, unlike the assistant necromancers in Outpost 3 they did have the wit not to walk in front of the big machine that makes bad things happen over there. That kind of poor decision making is the final clue as to what Outpost 3 most resembles; not a B-movie sequel, but a bad videogame.

The plot at times betrays the questionable logic of some survival horror - because it's not time for creature X to be defeated, you can shoot it in the head as much as you like on Level 6 and it just won't die. In the level that borrows from Tomb Raider where you've been stripped of your weapons, you can strangle the undead. Some doors can be opened remotely, some can't. Some monsters appear more than once, some only appear at the end of a level, and at times it seems that even when you've run across a potentially life-saving arsenal you can't do anything with it because your inventory is full. Creature features work when the monsters have rules, but Outpost 3's menagerie of menace is a muddle.

Inconsistencies abound - our elite unit are identified as fighting for Stalin, for Zhukhov, and that's fine, but they intermittently refer to themselves as "Red Guard" and "Russian Guard". Their SS captors refer to them as members of a penal battalion, and the presence of prison tattoos and Russian Orthodox crosses does suggest that they're not good Soviets, but they're an independently operating unit ostensibly out to gather intelligence and presumably trusted outwith any reasonable command and control radius. Alright, Zeks vs Zombies has something going for it as a pitch, but then you'd want commissars with machine guns driving their men towards the zombies with the threat of certain death, wouldn't you? This is not that movie. This is much more disappointing.

It's not without good bits; the practical effects for things like eye-gouging and head-exploding are commendable, and while the accents all wander back and forth like a hungry drunkard at a salad bar the physical performances behind the shifting vowels are quite good. Some audiences won't forgive it for not allowing us the didactic pleasure of discovering the German for "Oh my god, there's an axe in my head." Some of the creature design is good, but too much of it is first displayed because people keep going through doors without checking what might be on the other side. If you enjoyed the other Outpost movies then there's stuff that's probably fan service, and it's probably your only choice for a movie that's got "Spetsnaz" in the title and doesn't have subtitles.

There's a bit where they meet an American called Rogers who says "call me Captain" and while you might marvel at the audacity of the reference scholars of actual history might wonder what a Yank was doing on the Eastern Front in 1945. Assuming that he's wearing US Army uniform to avoid being executed as a spy doesn't make much sense, because he keeps telling people he's in CIA-precursor the OSS, and, well, you'd assume they'd be busier in France, say, or the Pacific, or in any of the other parts of the war that the Americans were actually involved in. Yes, fair enough, the existence of zombies might mean that the Malta agreement was phrased differently, but that's not what's going on here.

There's all sorts of wrong enough to annoy - The unit's callsign is "Thor's Hammer". They're Russians, fighting Nazis. Yes, it's probably another Marvel reference, but it was the Reich that pretended to a Norse-Teutonic hero-myth that cribbed heavily from production designs for Wagner's operas. It's clumsy, careless, upsettingly so.

To add insult to injury there's a coda that presumably makes sense if you watched Outpost 2, and if it doesn't make sense if you have watched Outpost 2 then that's four hours of life wasted. There's then a series of really well executed comic-book pages, of a raid on what appears a concentration camp with another evil doctor, and, like, lightning-powered stormtroopers and stuff. That minute or so of storyboard is a better movie than everything that went before.

Its full title also includes "Rise Of The Spetsnaz", and, yes, Spetsnaz now has the generic meaning of Russian Special Forces, and yes, there's maybe a case that like "Commando" it was in use before units literally named as such were created, but "partisan" is right there, and so is Wikipedia. There is a literal rising too, but it's as clumsily symbolic as that time Batman got out of a hole.

It's a directorial debut for Kieran Parker, who has produced all three of the Outposts. Rae Brunton scripts, and the pair are responsible for the story. The action isn't bad, the idea of having to escape from a chamber of horrors has some merit, and Brian Larkin's hard-bitten, or rather un-bitten, survivor Dholokhov has real screen presence. It's just that it's sloppy, in ways that can't be excused by low budget or a lack of ambition - for all that it's a third attempt at a movie where soldiers fight zombies, it could have done with another draft.

There's a school of thought that says that some movies are watchable if you've had a couple of beers, but you, ale, and cinema are all worth more than that. If you have to be drunk to make something tolerable, do something else. If you're compelled to watch a movie with soldiers and zombies, get Day of The Dead on DVD. If you simply must do so at a cinema, try World War Z and try to figure out where all the money went. If you're attending Edinburgh's 2013 Film Festival, try Frankenstein's Army. Just don't bother with Outpost 3.

Reviewed on: 21 Jun 2013
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A member of Russia's elite special forces must battle to survive after he is captured by the Nazis and comes face to face with their grotesque zombie experiments.
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Director: Kieran Parker

Writer: Rae Brunton

Starring: Bryan Larkin, Ivan Kamaras Michael McKell, Velibor Topic, Alec Utgoff, Laurentiu Possa

Year: 2013

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

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