“Sex! Zombies! War!”
(aka Battlefield Death Tales, aka Angry Nazi Zombies)
Directed by James Eaves, pat Higgins and Alan Ronald
This film is actually an anthology of three short films. As a result, I’m going to deviate from our usual system in order to take on each film separately. This is especially important because the films are highly variable in terms of their quality.
Medal of Horror
Directed by James Eaves and starring David Wayman, Paul Kelleher and Tina Barnes, Medal of Horror is a story about a complete arsehole undertaking a dangerous mission to the heart of nowhere in particular to rescue a total cipher from a stock villain. It is simultaneously boring and infuriating.
We begin with our protagonist, whatsisname (Wayman) watching a pretty girl do a fan dance and then having sex with her. Shortly thereafter, she receives a letter telling him she’s been killed in action. But wait! In the next scene, thingummy walks into a … church hall or something? … where inexplicably American officer Major Kendricks tells him that he has found out that he (whatsisname) faked his own death in order to avoid his responsibilities to Daisy (the dancer) who is Kendricks’s daughter despite the fact that the father is American and the daughter is British.
Daisy has, for some reason, been captured or something by a Nazi agent code-named Jezebel, and also there’s a backstory about zombies, and by this point this has gone on for approximately one million years. Kendricks. Likes to take. Long pauses. Between the different. Parts. Of his lines. To make them seem. Dramatic. And the two characters’ faces are almost never in the same shot; Kendricks is sitting down and shitforbrains is standing next to him, so occasionally we just cut to his look of dull surprise. We were shouting GET ON WITH IT at the screen throughout this scene.
So dipshit wanders out into what appears to be no-man’s-land or something while Zee Chermans shoot roman candles at him. And he has a suicide pill and some dude is dying but he doesn’t help him and then there is a C+ kung fu fight between a zombie Red Baron and a zombie kamikaze guy and then he meets the villain who takes him prisoner because he sucks and then kills Daisy and the villain has a robot, which is actually pretty cool. But then the villain accidentally takes the suicide pill and dies. Our hero heads home, but the guy he didn’t help earlier has turned into a zombie and bites him. The End.
How bad is it really?
It is absolutely goddamn atrocious. Let me break this down into some advice for the filmmakers’ future endeavours:
- Creating tense and engaging battle scenes is hard. It takes budget and it takes training. Don’t try.
- It is customary for the protagonist in a narrative to have at least one interesting or amusing quality.
- Ten minutes of mumbled backstory can go fuck itself.
- Soldiers in the same unit typically wear similar uniforms.
- Maps typically include topographic details of the terrain they represent. An A4 infographic is not an adequate substitute.
- Porn exists and is easily, cheaply available; inferior substitutes for it are unnecessary.
- When shooting a reaction shot, it is advisable to have the actor react in some way.
- No one gives a fuck about your stupid backstory; you obviously don’t, since your setting doesn’t make a hoot in hell of sense. So why are you banging on about it?
- Greatcoats are usually worn in winter; it is a beautiful sunny day, so why is Butthead Protagonist wearing one, especially when no one else appears to be?
- Roger Corman once said that location shooting was the low-budget filmmaker’s friend, because natural scenery looks spectacular in a way a cheap set can’t. Consider the way Six-String Samurai uses the scenery of Death Valley to such great effect.
- “A bunch of trees” doesn’t count.
Best bit (if such there is)?
- Kendricks’s explanation of the zombie backstory is accompanied by a little motion-comic style animated scene that has some good facial expressions in it.
- Robo-Fritz is pretty cool, both in terms of his appearance and his voice.
- The title is pretty funny, although it would make more sense if they were American.
I might not be objective about this one. I think that if you were to look at it objectively you might think that Harriet’s War, directed by Alan Ronald, was pretty OK. Like fan-film or unsuccessful-pilot level of OK, maybe. But I watched it right after Medal of Horror, so that was like having someone bawl “I’m Proud to Be an American” in your ear off-key for thirty minutes. Then the hurting stops and there’s a moment of blissful silence. Then an adequately-good bar band starts to play. Under the circumstances, it would seem like choirs of angels were singing.
Anyway, our second film starts with some young lovers in the woods getting attacked by what appears to be a Nazi zombie (Eaves take note: an interesting thing happens early in the film). The infamous night filter is in play here, leading to remarks among the watchers such as “we’d better go; these woods aren’t safe in broad daylight.”
Paranormal investigator Harriet Price (Lara Lemon) turns up to investigate the killing and does the whole big-city-detective-in-a-small-village bit with her derpy local constable sidekick, PC Jones (Cy Henty). With a bag full of retrotech gadgets and some reasonable dialogue, Price is the best character in this thing so far: comprehensible motivations, smart, attractive without being inappropriately sexualised. I wouldn’t necessarily watch the Harriet Price TV show, but I’d give it a couple of episodes to convince me.
Anyway, the bit is pretty straightforward: Price and Jones look for clues, alarm the villagers, are opposed by the local vicar, and eventually find out that the Nazi zombie is not actually a Nazi zombie per se, which is an OK ending to this thing.
How bad is it really?
It’s OK! Obviously it’s a low-budget production as well, but it avoids big battle scenes and focuses on a home-front setting, which means it can make use of village locations that probably do look more or less like they did in the 40s. It’s not perfect: there are big stacks of plastic chairs in the village hall, for instance, which I don’t think is likely to be right, and not all the dialogue is first-rate, or even second. The priest has clearly wandered in from a totally different film. The “mutilation” effects aren’t amazing, the sound is a bit ropey in some scenes, and the plot is basically resolved by deus ex machina. But it’s a breath of fresh air after the previous smeller. There are even a couple of legitimately funny jokes.
Best bit (if such there is)?
- Harriet’s goofy 40s PKE meter.
- Price tries to shoulder a door open and bounces off; Harriet reaches over, unlatches it and walks in. Oldie but a goodie.
- Subverting the expectation that there will be Nazi zombies.
- Knowing your limitations. The filmmakers knew they couldn’t afford to do big battle scenes and what have you, so they went for a lower-key historical setting and a little paranormal mystery, and it worked out pretty well.
- The weird stop-motion effect on the “zombie” is actually quite eerie.
Devils of the Blitz
Pat Higgins’s story starts off with what appears to be the same battle scene from Medal of Horror, which is quite a neat idea, I guess, and certainly economical. It’s much better edited, though, giving us less of a chance to see its fakery. We get a voice-over narration from a soldier describing the battle, which turns out to be a letter he wrote. We cut back to his loved ones reading the letter at home.
Cut to our soldier, who is hiding in a ruined building from a German (OK, more greatcoats here — the German’s with a great big swastika armband, which I’m pretty sure is BS). This bit is OK — good use of differing areas of light and dark in the building. But its back to Lunnon, where we learn that the soldier’s grandfather disapproves of him because of some unspecified thing he’s done. After a fight, sister Ruth storms out into the night despite the impending German air raid.
Back in the unspecified warzone (I don’t know where the hell it was in the first movie; here it seems to be Germany) our hero gets punched up by the German soldier, who is then savaged by a plastic puppet of a demon. Our hero gets his eye pulled out by the puppet and then wakes up in a field hospital, where they think he’s a deserter despite the fact that he’s obviously been severely wounded. I guess this is why grandpa doesn’t want to see him. Hero starts to talk to the image of his dead army buddy, who suggests that demons are coming through into the world.
Mum pleads with Ruth to come back, but Grandpa says they can’t come in. Grandpa. Also likes. To take pauses. Like the Major. He likes. To take pauses. And to repeat himself. He is increasingly acting sinister. Inexplicably, there is a demon puppet in the cellar. It mauls Grandpa. The neighbourhood starts to burn down. Mum starts yakking about the Angels of Mons. It’s the end of the world, apparently. A demon puppet unconvincingly mauls Mum. Ruth, inspired by her brother’s letter, picks up a hammer and bashes the demon puppets, which basically remain stationary during the whole process, suggesting they might not have been such scary antagonists after all. The end suggests an upcoming human/puppet fight, which seems a little one-sided considering that one side can bite you a little and one side is about to develop the A-bomb.
How bad is it really?
Worse than Harriet’s War, but better than Medal of Horror insofar as it has a plot and characters. Sort of overacted. Very unconvincing puppets. Relevance of plot unclear. World-conquering demons easily defeated by ordinary civilian with commonly available household tool.
Best bit (if such there is)?
I got nothin’. I can ironically appreciate a few parts of it, I suppose?
It would be unfair to give the movie an overall grade, because that would imply a sort of melange of averageness, which is not right. One of the three films is dia-bloody-bolical, one of them is a lot better than you’d think, and one of them is just sort of whatever.