February 4, 2014

DVD Review: Code Red (2013)

Zombies are all the rage, although their welcome seems to be wearing thin in some corners of the horror community. Not this one, however. While there have been some really bad zombie stuff released over the years, I am a sucker for a good one, or even a modestly entertaining one. They come in all shapes and sizes, they recently made the jump to big budget blockbuster status with the surprisingly decent World War Z. They seem to be easy to write, easy to execute, but difficult to master, and every would be horror director seems to try their hand at it. This includes first time writer/director Valeri Milev.

Something else that seems to be making a comeback with regards to zombie films is Nazis. There was a wave of these back in the 1970's with movies like Zombie Lake, Oasis of the Zombies, and Shock Waves. Now, there has been a bit of a resurgence with the likes of Dead Snow, the Outpost movies, and Horrors of War. Code Red seeks to enter their ranks and looks to do it from a slightly different angle, by not really being Nazi zombies, but born of the fight against the Nazis. Still, the source is most definitely evil and not at all benevolent.

Code Red kicks off during World War II and the Battle of Stalingrad. Nazi forces are encroaching on Russian land and Stalin is not happy. He unleashes a new bio-weapon that reanimates the dead as zombie soldiers. This is all done in the opening battle sequence, which is really well done. The battle has weight and fine, dirty detail. It is a bloody battle that does not exactly look real, but it is involving and draws you in pretty quick. The zombies appear and the one man left alive barely gets away.

The timeline moves to the present and there is a new push to find the truth about what happened. That lone survivor told his story and wrote his visions, but died without being believed. Now, there is a believer and it is believed that there some more of the zombie weapon in an old weapons bunker in Bulgaria. A soldier named John (Paul Logan) is sent in, undercover, to see if it is true and to obtain it for the US.

Well, John goes and meets up with a doctor, Anna (Manal El-Feitury), who found evidence of the weapon's existence. While John is looking for it, there is an unscrupulous military commander who, unwilling to give up his stash, blows up the weapons depot. This, of course, releases the zombifying agent and kicks off a battle for survival as zombies begin to overrun the city.

That is about it. It is all rather perfunctory and noting particularly exciting happens. There is some fighting, some shooting, some blood, some running, and then some more running, and then it is over. It seems set up a sequel, but I suspect that would just be more of the same. Sadly, this does not offer anything new other than having Nazis and not having them be the main bad guy.

The movie is presented in a 1.78:1 ratio and looks generally good. Unfortunately, the best looking material is the WWII battle at the start, it has a great look and strong detail, but everything after that looks mediocre by comparison, not bad, but bland. Detail and color is still there, it just doesn't leave much of a mark. The audio is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that does its job without calling much attention to itself. It makes decent use of the surrounds as zombies run up on our heroes and when gunshots ring out.

Among the extras is a Making of featurette that is constructed of some behind the scenes footage blended with cast interviews. There is also a featurette called WWII Uncut which is just a window-boxed version of the opening battle footage, only with no dialogue or sound effects, just music. Rounding out the extra material is some outtake footage.

In the end, Code Red is not terrible and won't insult you to watch, but it is not terrible if you skip it.

Mildly Recommended.

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