Horrors of War may be fiction, but in dealing with Hitler’s human experiments during WWII, nothing seems too far-fetched. The film is a pleasantly ambitious smörgåsbord of genres. Filmed entirely in the state of Ohio (a fact I note because this is a very rare occurrence), the film dishes up healthy doses of science fiction, horror, war, suspense, action, and even some offbeat, albeit largely unnecessary, comedy. But there is always an underlying sensation of the unknown and the kind of dread we all feel when we know we are about to see something hideous – but just don’t know when.
The screenplay follows Lieutenant John Schmidt (Osbeck), a soldier who has the very bad luck of coming in contact with one of Hitler’s “weapons” as the film begins. What exactly are his “weapons”? The answer would be grotesque, superhuman, dog-like creatures that have been genetically mutated. They are virtually impervious to bullets and can take out an entire battalion in a matter of seconds. The brain behind the mutations is Dr. Heinrich Schaltur, a Hitler minion. Word of the “weapons” has reached U.S. intelligence, and Schmidt, along with Captain Joe Russo (Lorenzo), is given the assignment of finding Schaltur and diffusing Hitler’s diabolical plan before it can take complete form.
Directors John Whitney and Peter John Ross take a no-nonsense approach to the material, and it pays off. We are made aware of the missions, and then the bullets fly. Their direction is taut and free of the kind of dizzying camera work that plague today’s trendy action films, but the intensity remains. The film sports some of the best special effects and makeup work I have seen in a movie with a modest budget, and there are even a few quality gore shots. This is a first class production through and through.
The performances are solid, led by Jon Osbeck as the vulnerable but confident Schmidt. The narrative is told from his perspective, and Osbeck sells the character nicely as one who is frightened, but also morbidly curious about Hitler’s experiments. Joe Lorenzo brings depth to the gruff, combat-phased Russo. The rest of the supporting cast are convincing, even in more challenging scenes such as the run-in the soldiers have with two French women.
The flaws with the film come in the form of unnecessary and badly timed comedic outbursts, but it detracts minimally from the overall experience. This is a fun and daring independent film, and I recommend catching it if the chance arises. As of this writing, the filmmakers are planning to take the film out west for several screenings. If you enjoy Independent film with bite, this is your ticket.
Studio: Hollywood Wizard
Length: 99 Minutes
Rating: Not Rated (Contains violence, gore, some sexual content and some language)
Theatrical Release: March 25, 2006 (Theatrical Release) / May 23, 2006 (San Francisco, CA) / May 25, 2006 (LA) / June 5, 2006 (NY)
Directed by: Peter John Ross and John Whitney
Written by: Philip R. Garrett & John Whitney. Story by Peter John Ross & Scott Spears.
Cast: Jon Osbeck, Joe Lorenzo. Daniel Alan Kiely, David Carroll, Chip Kocel, Kim Carey