25th Feb2019

‘Soldier of War’ VOD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: John Rhys-Davies, Rosie Fellner, Tanya Franks, Theo Devaney, Paul Reynolds, Jack Derges, Gary Mavers, Sally Mortemore, Tristam Summers, James Fisher, Michael Elkin | Written by John Adams, Peter Adams | Directed by John Adams

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I’m not sure if I should be surprised or not but there seems to be quite a few World War II zombie movies, or movies that can kind of be linked to World War 2 and the undead – there’s definitely enough for it to be called a sub genre on its own. So Soldier of War (aka Aux) can be added to Dead Snow, Overlord, Outpost, Frankenstein’s Army and a myriad more.

Soldier of War is a British film and it, like many of its kind, feels very British. From the police uniforms to the woodland and countryside to the accents; it will be very familiar to people from the U.K. and horror fans that have watched plenty of low budget British horror. This isn’t really a bad thing though, it definitely gives the film a certain kind of identity; and despite several similar movies, with very similar stories, this does at least seem a little fresh.

Now, I did briefly mention about low budgets but despite Soldier of War clearly not with much in the way of funding, it looks surprisingly great. A lot of thought and effort has gone into the costumes (I’m mainly talking about the police and ambulance services here – everything looks very authentic) but the cinematography is also very good. I was much more impressed than I thought I would be after a lacklustre first scene. This scene involved two young, I suspect inexperienced actors, happening upon a ‘creature’ of sorts that wants them dead. The acting isn’t great, we don’t get to see much of the creature and there’s nothing new. Although it does deliver a last second shock that I wasn’t expecting; and it sets up the movie where we see this enemy killing off police officers one by one for an unknown reason.

The creature doesn’t actually get seen much throughout the entire movie despite causing many deaths but personally I see this as a good thing. Firstly because the budget doesn’t give them much to work withm so the practical effects aren’t fantastic (and I wouldn’t want to see a CGI creature here) so the choice to leave it until the very end for the reveal is a good one. And once revealed, it’s not a disappointment – even if things do look a bit ‘clean-cut’ (I actually thought the look was inspired by Freddy Krueger in A New Nightmare). The other reason for not revealing much is because why do it anyway? Build the suspense and tension, let the viewer keep guessing. It is nearly always the best way to go.

The acting performances are decent to for the most part, with the director making a good choice for who is on screen the most. Veteran actor John Rhys-Davies is the clear highlight and he steals every scene he is in. But Rosie Fellner puts in a really good performance as Samantha Huntley as well. Unfortunately a couple of actors are a victim of the writing, with Paul Reynolds as DI Reed the main culprit. He is written as this comedy policeman but for me, nearly all the humour just fell flat and his character, like many of the police, came across as dumb and incompetent. Which is not unusual for a horror movie but it didn’t work for me. This, along with some dodgy CGI blood and gore (when does this ever look good?!) is my major complaint.

This is director John Adams’ debut directorial effort and he shows lots of promise. Soldier of War is far from perfect but it gets plenty of things right, some entertaining deaths and a cast that put in all the effort to make this one for genre fans to give a go.

*** 3/5

Soldier of War is released in the US on VOD March 3rd and DVD April 9th from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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