22nd Aug2013

‘Cannon Fodder’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Emos Ayeno, Erez Eisenstein, Liron Levo, Roi Miller, Omer Ninyo, Gome Sarig, Yafit Shalev | Written and Directed by Eitan Gafny

Cannon-fodder-gore

Three years ago Israel exploded on to the horror scene with Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Rabies (Kalevet). The success of that film has seemingly opened the flood gates for filmmakers in the country to explore even more horrific themes and so we have the Israel’s very first zombie movie, Cannon Fodder.

The film follows security operative Doron as he takes on one last mission: to go to Lebanon and capture Number 3 in the terrorist organisation of Hezbollah. With an elite force behind him, Doron soon discovers that reality is not so simple. A new and unknown enemy is to be dealt with – and Hezbollah are the last thing on his mind. Doron has to deal with a ticking clock in the form of extensive Israeli Defense Force attack and a ravening, totally unpredictable enemy. But now that his enemy has changed its face, it’s up to him and his unit to wage a new war, a different war, to find an antidote, and get back across the border before the Middle East conflict is changed forever.

It’s always interesting to see a different countries take on a horror staple you can usually expect to see something new from the stories we are always told. Which is why it’s so strange to see the first zombie movie from Israel look and feel very much like the myriads of zombie films we’ve already seen come out of the US before. Yet that’s not actually a bad thing. Director Eitan Gafny has taken the cliches and stereotypes of zombie action-horror and wrapped them around very Middle-Eastern sensibilities, taking traditional Israel military drama tropes and throwing zombies in the mix – all the while feeling very much like a military action movie straight out of the 80s. I almost expected Chuck Norris to turn up at one point, all guns a-blazing!

One thing you can tell from watching Cannon Fodder is that this is most-definitely the work of a true film fan. Gafny throws in plenty of nods to other [American] movies throughout the films 90-minute running time, including Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and a hilarious homage to Predator and in particular Bill Duke’s constantly-shaving character.

Besides directing the film, Gafny also penned the script, which is scattered with some of the least PC characters and one-liners I’ve seen in a very long time – and it’s amazingly refreshing! Yes it is the type of behaviour and language that we would expect from “laddish” army soldiers, but this is also not just non-PC for the sake of being non-PC, Gafny’s use of language and characterisation also says a lot about the changing attitudes in Israel and Israeli culture, poking fun at the small-minded yet still feeling like everyday soldier “banter”.

Of course this IS a zombie film, and as such it successfully fulfills the gore quotient (just check out that screenshot at the top of this review), with plenty of blood and guts – even if they are sometimes overly-enhanced by CGI. Cannon Fodder also has one hell of a soundtrack, and Gafny’s decision to tap Erez Yohanan, one of Israel’s leading metal musicians, to work on the score and soundtrack pays off royally – the rock score adding the excitement and pacing that any good zombie action-horror needs.

As surprising as much as it is stereotypical, Cannon Fodder is hands down THE best horror film to come out of Israel, easily surpassing Keshales and Papushado’s Rabies. For me Israeli horror has a new standard to live up to in Eitan Gafny’s superb zombie flick.

**** 4/5

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