Saturday, 29 August 2015

Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

I remember being pleasantly surprised by director Steve Barker's 2008 film Outpost. Low budget, straight to DVD and highly derivative chiller it may have been, but it actually clicked and became a surprising cult success thanks to its eerie and almost unbearably tense and downbeat atmosphere, a strong committed cast and by coming in ahead of the curve for the niche but popular market of supernatural Nazi horror movies.

Distributed by Sony who saw its potential and had faith in it, Barker was  then encouraged to make a sequel alongside original co-writer Rae Brunton and, four years later, Outpost: Black Sun was released. 

Unfortunately, despite being written and directed by the same people, this sequel is not a patch on the original Outpost movie. It certainly continues in the same vein and is very much authentic in serving as a continuation of the story and the fictional universe they have created, but it's ultimately a disappointing venture. 

Go bigger seemed to be the key for this sequel and, despite looking like it had a bit more money spent on it, the film fails in delivering. There's perhaps just too much trying to be done here and overall it lacks many of the key things that made the original such a modest hit, namely the simple use of its singular, claustrophobic setting meaning a loss of much of the necessary suspense and horror that a film like this needs to captivate us and capture our attention. 

The cast is also a problem. In Outpost, we had the likes of Ray Stevenson and Michael Smiley but here we have  Downton Abbey's Catherine Steadman adopting a whiny American accent to play Lena, a female Nazi hunter who frankly irritated me from the get go.  Richard Coyle - who will always and forever be Jeff from Coupling to me - plays our hero Wallace, some journalist type. Like Steadman he too adopts an American accent, albeit far less successfully. I say he's our hero but his character is not especially heroic nor is he charismatic - it's a radical departure from the first film which traded in bluff macho mercenaries. Similar characters return here, played by the likes of Gary McDonald and Nick Nevern, and on occasion Coyle stand in their midst like a rather poor Doctor Who, questioning their brawn over brain mentality. It doesn't help that these characters are there solely to serve as fodder for the killer undead Nazis, with zero character development beyond them hailing from different parts of the UK or, in McDonald's case, being black. 

The narrative feels overstretched throughout, it's like they want to do a big budget blockbuster on a shoestring rather than actually knowing their limitations and recalling how well they had served them first time around. By the time we reach the computer game like conclusion (Castle Wolfenstein anyone?) it's almost impossible to care and indeed, I wonder just how I lasted the distance.

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