They say love is the international language, but while that’s a romantic notion there’s one thing that seems far more universal in its appeal and effect regardless of language or culture. One thing that guarantees a similar reaction and response, that curdles the blood regardless of nationality, that instills fear alongside a fight or flight mentality no matter where you live… and that’s mutterfuckin’ zombies.
Michael comes to Berlin ostensibly to return some keys to the woman he loves, but he’s actually hoping to win her back. His estranged girlfriend, Gabi, left him after seven years to move to the big city, and their relationship went with her. Unfortunately, as with most things in Michael’s life apparently, his timing leaves a lot to be desired.
He arrives in Berlin on the same day a zombie outbreak starts to spread throughout the city. And Gabi is nowhere to be found.
Michael arrives on Gabi’s apartment building doorstep full of hope, but when he enters her apartment he finds a deranged plumber and his teenage assistant Harper but no Gabi. The plumber attacks and soon Michael and Harper are trapped in the apartment with red-faced, bloodthirsty zombies pounding on the door and roaming the courtyard outside the window. The TV shows government officials saying “Berlin police are prepared for such emergencies” in reference to incidents of humans biting each other to death, so that’s reassuring. Other survivors appear periodically in the windows surrounding the courtyard, and soon a plan is hatched for escape.
Director Marvin Kren’s Rammbock is reportedly Germany’s first foray into the zombie genre (Dead Snow is from Norway), and the end result is a mixed bag of elements that work and those that don’t. For starters, the film runs just shy of one hour which leaves it in an odd limbo between short and feature length. The running time both helps and hinders the movie though. On the plus side, a shorter film leaves less time for characters and events to grow stagnant or boring. The action and/or energy stays fairly constant throughout. But less screen time also means less time spent developing characters and more time-intensive set-pieces, and by the time things start really rolling the end credits drop.
The film’s biggest negative though is one of personal taste and not affected by running time. Zombie movies make one simple promise with the audience… and that promise involves undead people tearing into and eating the living. Even Zombieland and TV’s The Walking Dead knew to feature healthy splashes of the crimson wet stuff. But aside from one early throat bite resulting in spurting blood the movie is pretty much gore-free. The zombies chasing the survivors are all red faced, but that can just as easily be from exertion or a wad of sauerkraut stuck in their windpipe.
On the flip-side of that disappointment is the film’s effort at telling a story about love against a zombie apocalypse. The recent French movie, Mutants, managed the task far better, but Rammbock earns points for effort with its dedicated and faithful lead. Michael Fuith gives a focused and engaging performance as a man who only wants to find the woman he loves. A scene where he catches Harper breaking Gabi’s forks to use as weapons is made humorous and touching by his concern for her utensils. The scares and zombie chase scenes throughout the building are also effectively presented.
Rammbock is a simple movie that shambles its way towards the realm of mild entertainment. The lack of blood and gore hurts its claim as a zombie film, but the drama of the central character adds a compelling element often absent from these types of films. It won’t break any new ground or set tongues wagging like Rec or 28 Days Later did, but fans of the genre will enjoy this initial effort and eagerly await the chance to chow down on the inevitable sequel.
The Upside: Interesting focus on lost love amidst the carnage; short run-time leaves little time for things to grow stale or boring; bear suit is creepy
The Downside: Severely lacking in gore and bloodletting; short run-time means less time for action set-pieces and character development
On the Side: The term ‘rammbock’ translates loosely to battering ram or pile driver.
Rammbock opens today in select AMC Theaters as part of Bloody Disgusting Selects, a partnership between BloodyDisgusting.com, The Collective, and AMC theaters. The plan is to bring one foreign or festival favorite horror film to theaters per month to provide exposure for smaller films deserving of attention. Upcoming films include Sion Sono’s Cold Fish and the Roanoke-inspired Yellowbrickroad. Visit BloodyDisgustingSelects to find a participating theater near you.