Zombies are alive in ‘Rammbock: Berlin Undead’

Zombies have been done so many times in movies, comic books and now television that to find a unique thread in the horror sub-genre is as difficult as, well, escaping from the living dead.

Rammbock: Berlin Undead, the inaugural feature from Bloody Disgusting Selects and AMC Independent, finds that unique thread and spins a tale of dedicated love amidst an undead epidemic in Germany’s capital. At a slim 63 minutes, the feature feels more like a fable than it does a movie: It has believable characters faced with unbelievable circumstances. The result is a lively film about the lively undead.

"Rammbock: Berlin Undead" - Photo courtesy of Bloody Disgusting Selects

Michael Fuith plays the central role of Michael, a man recently arrived from Vienna to surprise his girlfriend, Gabi (Anka Graczyk), with an unexpected visit. What he finds in her apartment is unspeakable: A plumber working in Gabi’s apartment has turned into a zombie, and he doesn’t look to be the only one. A contagious virus is spreading throughout the country, and the infected spread their contagions by eating human flesh.

Just another day in the zombie universe.

It only takes a few minutes into Rammbock for the undead carnage to begin. Michael is thrown into a whirlwind of violence, forcing him to rely on his survivalist instincts. Helping him is Harper (Theo Trebs), the plumber’s young apprentice who longs to be reunited with his parents.

The two lost souls are effectively trapped in Gabi’s apartment complex. Their only solace is creeping their heads out the window into the courtyard where they can see other nearby residents trying to survive. But any thoughts of rescue are soon squashed. Down below are the zombies, and they’re hungry.

Director Marvin Kren, who is definitely a filmmaker to watch as his career progresses, has the zombies run and fight like jacked-up athletes. These are much more similar to the undead from 28 Days Later than Night of the Living Dead. Although the zombies certainly have that slightly-off awkward gait, they can still rampage and wreak havoc, busting through doors and climbing stairs as if it were an Olympic sport.

But for all the carnage that Michael and Harper hear from the newscasts over the radio, Rammbock: Berlin Undead is content with stirring a haunting atmosphere and never hitting the audience over the head with excessive violence. There are not too many bloody body parts in the film, and, for my money, that shows how strong the story hits the mark. Too often modern horror movies are mere gorefests, and they don’t have much substance to back up the blood. Rammbock, which is the German word for battering ram, focuses in on the characters and the storyline, trying to make everything as natural and unique as can be.

This is not to say that Rammbock pulls its punches. Several scenes are jump-out-of-your-seat scary, and the blood that does make the final cut, is impressive.

The only scene that shows the streets of Berlin is when Michael scales the roof of the apartment complex and looks out over the smoke-riddled urban landscape. Although I appreciated the simplicity and smallness of the story, I couldn’t help thinking how cool it would be to have a zombie apocalypse filmed on the streets of this great city. Berlin offers so many visual backdrops that the capital could have been a superb setting.

The acting is all strong, and the movie never feels like a student film or unfinished project. Yes, it’s only 63 minutes long, but for this type of story, that running time feels just right. At the end of the day, the plot involves Michael, Gabi and Harper. There is no need to expand beyond the humanity found in this trifecta.

Rammbock: Berlin Undead is one of the strongest zombie movies in years, and deserves a cult status. Its surprising moments of tenderness will likely floor you more than the horror.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
  • Rammbock: Berlin Undead

  • 2011

  • Directed by Marvin Kren

  • Written by Benjamin Hessler

  • Starring Michael Fuity, Theo Trebs and Anka Graczyk

  • Running time: 63 minutes

  • Not rated

  • Bubble score: 3.5 out of 4

  • Click here to purchase Rammbock: Berlin Undead on DVD.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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