If you’re ever in the middle of the woods and you find a trap door leading into an underground bunker, whatever you do, don’t go inside! You might just run into the reincarnated zombie-spirit of a Nazi-killing soldier who wants your head because he thinks you’re a German. Best to just go ahead and walk away…
…Needless to say, the premise behind Soldier of War is a fun, if not goofy, one. The directorial debut of Josh Adams and written by Josh and Peter Adams (The Magnificent Eleven), Soldier of War (aka Aux) begins with two boys coming across the sealed hatch to an underground military bunker. By opening the hatch, the boys accidentally release the deadly ghost of a soldier named Bob Pearce (Glenn Salvage), who believes Nazis have taken over the country, and is hell-bent on killing them all. Now it’s up to a handful of people to stop him.
There may be members of the Nazi party who will look at this film as a warning to change their ways (though probably not), yet for the rest of us viewers, Soldier of War is a silly romp that seems completely unaware of just how ridiculous it is. Part of the charm comes from how straight the cast plays their roles. Once the boys unleash this mummified war spirit, we’re introduced to cops Samantha (Tanya Franks) and Unwin (Tristam Summers), as they attempt to track down the killer. Their introductions are, awkward to say the least. Soldier of War’s dialogue is so unnatural, that most of the cast has a hard time with their delivery. Everyone seems uncomfortable, and I can’t blame them. The dialogue runs off the tongue as coarsely as sandpaper, and some scenes go on way too long like a Family Guy skit, where we begin to wonder how much longer we’re going to have to listen to this, such as a moment where Samantha and Unwin go back and forth discussing who/what might be doing the killing.
It doesn’t help either that, outside of the talented John Rhys-Davies as war vet, Jack, the characters in Soldier of War are beyond bland. I would even go as far as to say they’re forgettable. Jack is the only one with depth here, but even his scenes are filled with an unnecessary strangeness, such as how he so easily makes the jump to the idea that what’s killing people in the woods must be his old war buddy that died in a bunker with him. Of course, it couldn’t possibly be literally ANYTHING else, Jack. There is absolutely nothing pointing to the idea that it must be a vengeance ghost doing the killing, yet Jack believes this automatically without any proof.
But forget the poor characters, or bad writing, or the horribly obnoxious music which plays too loudly and distracts through the entire film. None of that matters, because even though I don’t get the sense that the filmmakers intended Soldier of War to be funny, the film is unintentionally campy as all hell and all the better for it. You won’t have much fun with the dry characters, what with their monotone delivery and dead eyes, but what Adams has done here is mashed a slasher film together with elements of Predator. The zombified killer uses traps, throws knives, tears off heads, all while hunting “Germans” in the woods. He has a predatory MO in the way he hunts, but is out there slicing and dicing victims like a poor man’s Jason Voorhees in camo. These kills are over the top and violent, and generally get a good laugh (though some are ruined by an abundance of unnecessary CGI blood). The 80s slasher love is real in Soldier of War, with scenes like a couple of teens making out in a car in the middle of fog-ridden woods, which the ghostly soldier attacks because they’re in a German made car. And Bob isn’t about to allow a couple of “Germans” to have a good time.
This is also what makes the creature himself so fascinating yet simultaneously ridiculous. Soldier of War plays out like a lesser X-Files episode, with Samantha and Unwin trying to crack the case. Just as Mulder and Scully would discover, the answer wasn’t always one that made sense. A lot of times, it was pretty fucking weird. Soldier of War is no different. The premise walks the line here between curious and absurd. There’s some depth to be found in the idea that this military ghost would freak out and start killing Nazis after waking up decades later and thinking he’s still in the 1940’s. But for every interesting moment, like good ole’ Nazi-stomping Bob keeping a black woman alive because she confuses him, since Germans didn’t employ blacks in their army, there are other scenes like the whole German car thing that are just laughable.
Speaking of laughable, Soldier of War may have the cheesiest ending of the year so far, one that is severely anti-climactic. We may want to see Jack get back in his army gear and take on Bob head to head ala Schwarzenegger vs the Predator, but for a film that relishes in entertaining gore and deadly traps, Soldier of War ends with a sigh instead of the bang you’d expect.
Soldier of War is made for a very select audience, those who enjoy the sort of cheap trash that would play on the Syfy channel in the 90s. It’s campy, weird, messy, kind of dull, but overall entertaining, in the same sort of way that Sharktopus is entertaining. Soldier of War is ultimately pretty forgettable, but if you have nothing better to do and find it streaming on a lazy Sunday, there are worse ways to spend eighty minutes.
Soldier of War is now available on VOD from Uncork’d Entertainment.
By Matt Konopka