Horrors of War (2006) – By Duane L. Martin

 Not too long ago I was contacted by director Peter John Ross and asked to review a film that he and co-director John Whitney had been working on. I was aware of the work that had been ongoing with this film and had been looking forward to getting the chance to review it. Now I have that chance.

This film was originally conceived to be an anthology film, making three distinct thirty minute stories into one complete film using a wrap around. The second part of the anthology was dropped entirely and the character of Lt. Schmidt was created as a bridge that connected the other two parts. As you watch the film, you can tell where each distinct section of the story starts and ends, but the whole thing works well as a solid piece and the continuity of story is handled quite well.

It’s World War II. Hitler has commissioned a scientist (under threats of killing his family if he didn’t cooperate) to create an army of super soldiers. The doctor’s research resulted in the creation of a limited number of individual super soldiers that the American GI’s in the story encountered. The super soldiers are big, ugly, smelly, strong and tough as hell. They’re basically impervious to bullets, though if you shoot them in the head they die, much like your average zombie. Unfortunately for our heroes, these arent your average zombie. In fact, super soldiers can be created from living people rather than having to re-animate the dead.

The first segment of the film has two squads of soldiers encountering their first super soldier. The second segment involves a newly formed squad with some of the previous people trying to make their way through the French countryside. They encounter a farmhouse with two beautiful French girls and the leader of the squad ends up raping one of them and then ultimately killing her. The girl’s brother, who’s a werewolf, attacks the squad. He’s killed by silver bullets that the surviving sister gave to one of the soldiers that was kind to her during the encounter. Unfortunately, one of the soldiers was left as a lycanthrope after the attack. The third story involves the formation of a squad made up mostly of people from the earlier stories (including the lycanthrope) and their search for the scientist who was creating the super soldiers.

There are so many great things to say about this film, I don’t even know where to start. First of all, it actually was shot on real film. This was to give it a more authentic look rather than something that was just shot on digital. The uniforms, guns, military hardware…everything was authentic. This was almost entirely due to World War II re-enactment groups rallying to the cause and helping out with the film.

This film is full of other things you don’t see in many other independent films. There are guns that really fire rather than just having sound effects and muzzle flashes added in during post, nicely set up explosions, bullet damage and more. Something else that really added to the authenticity of the whole thing was that the Germans actually spoke German and the French actually spoke French rather than just having them all talk in English with an accent. This was a huge detail that so many films skimp on and it really added to the already authentic look and feel of the film.

The acting talent in this film on the part of nearly everyone was simply brilliant. The characters were all distinct individuals with their own backgrounds, problems, way of looking at life, etc… It was really the same sort of a collection of people you’d find thrown together during an actual war. While this was great in it’s own right, it did lead to about the only problem I really had with this film. Now when I say problem, it’s one of those things that was kind of a problem for me, though it may not be for other people. The problem, for me at least, is that the movie seemed overly chatty at times. I would have liked to have seen more intense fighting scenes with the super soldiers, or even more encounters with the German soldiers. Basically, more action and less chatter. At times the whole pacing of the movie felt bogged down because of all the dialogue. Then again, on the flip side of the coin, all the dialogue allowed for more character development and brought the characters to life. So really, at least for me, it ended up being a double edged sword. A little less dialogue in certain parts and a bit more action, or at least something more exciting going on would have helped out the pacing in the slower parts of the film and kept things moving along nicely.

On a more technical level, the entire film was just amazing. The shot set up, the lighting, the editing, sound, effects, CGI and basically everything were all exremely well done and reached a level of professionalism that shows why with each passing year, independent film becomes more of a threat to the Hollywood machine that keeps spending 100 million a pop to bring us more of the same ol’ crap. Peter John Ross and John Whitney along with their highly talented cast and crew have created something truly memorable, and have proven that even on a limited budget, if you have the talent and a group of people who believe in your vision, you can do anything.

There’s far too much in the line of trivia and details about this film and how it was made to get into here. The whole story of how the film came together though is quite fascinating. Peter John Ross and John Whitney had a vision, and through hard work and the assemblage of a huge number of talented people, they that vision to life.

The film is currently making the rounds at various film festivals. You can get all the info, watch the trailer and check out tons of behind the scenes stills by visiting the film’s website at http://www.horrorsofwarmovie.com.