I’ve pretty much stopped going to the cinema because I’ve finally got completely sick of watching millions and millions of dollars being put into a liquidiser with a mixture of battery acid, shit and whale spunk and whizzed into a disgusting oomska of filth which is then pumped directly into my eyes for two and a half solid hours. It doesn’t help that a visit to the cinema costs about the same as being pissed on by a specialist prostitute and usually leaves me feeling similarly disgusted with myself, not to mention the film industry and the human race in general.
Thankfully there are plenty of alternatives to being patronised by Michael Bay until you develop a learning difficulty. There’s always been much more interesting things going on in the murkier corners of the film business and few corners are murkier than the one from which Nazi Zombie Death Tales has crawled. It’s a micro-budget anthology film that tells three short tales of horror and madness set during the Second World War. Its title is somewhat misleading, as only one of the three stories actually involves nazi zombies. The three directors responsible, James Eaves, Alan Ronald and Pat Higgins had previously collaborated on the portmanteau movie Bordello Death Tales so they’re already experienced at working in this kind of setting.
The first thing you need to know is that Nazi Zombie Death Tales is cheap. Very, very cheap. That’s not generally a problem for me but if you’re the kind of person who wants flashy spectacle with your cinema then you might want to take a pass. Also you might want to never speak to me, as you’re part of the reason mainstream cinema is a barren wasteland of idiocy. The special effects in Nazi Zombie Death Tales vary in quality from early Hammer to early Ed Wood, but it’s the script and the ideas which are front and centre here and only a couple of times did the cheap special effects get in the way of telling the actual story.
The first tale, Medal of Horror, is an exuberant and frankly insane slice of pulp nonsense with its tongue lodged firmly in its cheek. A young man is forced to take on a suicide mission to try and stop the onslaught of undead Nazis that is causing the Allies to lose the Second World War. This is a fairly silly premise that is rapidly turned into a mental mind fuck that brings to mind the better end of the Troma spectrum. There’s some clever use of flashbacks and a sharp script underpinning the madness, and while the acting isn’t going to win any awards, it’s more than adequate for the material provided and everyone involved seems to be having lots of fun with their roles.
Following this is Harriet’s War, which tells the story of ghostly goings on in the English countryside. A psychic investigator called Harriet comes to the small village of Chapelton to investigate a gruesome murder which has left the victim covered with wounds in the shape of swastikas. This is the most traditional narrative of the three stories and could easily have been a Twilight Zone episode in another life. It’s also got the best acting of the film with a charismatic leading lady and a quaint and authentic supporting cast. It suffers from being under-populated, but that’s always an issue with smaller budget movies. Although the least ambitious of the three stories, there’s something to be said for keeping it simple, and the story is strong enough to retain interest.
The final story is Devils of the Blitz. This section has the most complex narrative and the most interesting script. Ruth and her mother Mary are in England reading the final letter of her soldier brother which hints at terrifying supernatural events going on out on the front lines. As a Luftwaffe air raid approach the women’s home and the bombs start falling, it seems like the horrors of the front may also be present in England. There are some big ideas and some quite advanced narrative techniques in Devils of the Blitz, but sadly there are some problems with the execution. The acting is uneven and while the two female leads are credible the male leads are both somewhat wooden. The special effects too are rather flimsy which robs a powerful story of some of its impact – a real shame. Nonetheless, this is a strong idea which is the only one of the three stories that feels like it has bigger ideas than can be done justice to in thirty minutes of screen time.
It’s great to see a low budget horror film embracing traditional cinematic approaches. There’s no found footage here and a pleasing absence of either torture porn or the extreme misogyny that seems to have somehow become a shibboleth of independent horror films. This is a quirky and extremely British take on horror that takes the conceit of World War 2 horror in three very different directions, which is exactly what a good anthology film should do. An overall narrative tying the three stories together would have made this somewhat more satisfying but if you’re a fan of cult cinema you could do a lot worse than spend 90 minutes Nazi Zombie Death Tales.
Nazi Zombie Death Tales was provided for review by the nice folk at Jinx Media.