The current craze for fast running zombies spreads to Germany with “Siege of the Dead”, a.k.a. “Rammbock”, another slice of ghoulish mayhem that marks the debut of writer Benjamin Hessler and director Marvin Kren. Following a handful of unfortunates trapped in an apartment block while the hungry undead swarm outside, while the film steadfastly adheres to the new, post-Romero genre rules as laid down by the likes of “28 Days Later” and “[Rec]”, raising the question whether it offers anything new, or if it is simply another by the numbers Euro gut-muncher. Viewers can decide for themselves, as the film now arrives on region 2 DVD via Revolver Entertainment.
The film kicks off with the recently dumped and decidedly morose Michael (Michael Fuith, also in “Rimini” and “Free to Leave”) arriving in Berlin, having decided to hand over a set of keys to his ex girlfriend Gabi in person, in the hopes of maybe winning her back. Strangely, he finds her apartment empty aside from a couple of plumbers, one of whom is chained to a radiator and seeming rather unfriendly. Aided by young apprentice Harper (Theo Trebs, recently in Michael Haneke’s amazing “The White Ribbon”), he manages to push the crazed man out of the door, and they barricade themselves inside. This proves to be a wise move, as the building is soon surrounded by hordes of the walking dead, all trying to find their way inside for a tasty meal of human flesh.
“Siege of the Dead” really is as straightforward as it sounds, with its German dialogue and setting being the only things to differentiate it from the countless other new age zombie films that have flooded the market over the last few years. Pretty much every aspect of the film is predictable, and it follows the genre script down to the very last letter, offering only a handful of very minor variations such as a splash of misguided romance. The apartment block setting is reasonable enough, though with this having also been done recently in the considerably more ambitious French “The Horde”, it doesn’t count for much. With the plot lacking in any real drama, and since the characters themselves are quite literally disposable, their fates very much written on their foreheads from the first frame, for anyone left nonplussed by or already fed up with the whole low budget sprinting ghoul fad, the film doesn’t have a great deal to offer.
This having been said, for those who care, “Siege of the Dead” does have a few plus points in its favour, chief amongst which is that it is an incredibly efficient piece of film making, clocking in at just over the hour mark. Certainly, it wastes little time in getting started or along the way, and with almost no filler material it does to an extent represent a pleasingly stripped down, fast paced example of the genre. Hessler and Kren seem to know what they are doing, and have the good sense to inject a few moments of humour along the way, lifting the otherwise doom laden atmosphere and helping to distract from the all pervading sense of familiarity.
The duo also serve up a respectable amount of gore, with a few entertaining, if standard scenes of entrail-pulling and flesh gnawing. Although there are no really brutal money shots or anything that sticks in the mind, these should be just about enough to satiate fans, if not to elevate the film to the same level of splattery thrills as some of its recent peers. The special effects themselves are of a decent standard, as are the production values in general, and this at least keeps the film from looking too cheap, a flaw which would have certainly have consigned it to the bargain basement bins where it will likely end up anyway.
This is a bit of a shame, as “Siege of the Dead” really is not a bad film, though one which it is extremely hard to get excited about. Never managing to get the pulse truly racing or to offer anything even vaguely new, despite being short and perfectly serviceable, the film is probably only going to be of interest to diehard zombie fans, and even then only really to those with a real desire to see if the screaming of ghoul victims sounds any different in German.
Marvin Kren (director) / Benjamin Hessler (screenplay)
CAST: Sebastian Achilles … Kai
Carsten Behrendt … Manni
Melanie Berke … Ina Müller
Michael Fuith … Michael
Mila Gach … Stimme Radiodurchsage
Harald Geil … Thorsten
Jörn Hentschel … Dominik