The film opens in an unnamed Eastern European location. The territory is politically unstable with control “switching between government and insurgents on a weekly basis”. The countryside is rumoured to be rife with bandits, patrols and people who, as a general rule, would shoot you rather than look at you. It’s here that the mysterious Hunt (Julian Wadham), who represents a group he refers to only as “the financiers”, engages hard-bitten mercenary DC (Ray Stevenson) and his right-hand-man Prior (Richard Brake) to put together a team and guarantee his safe passage to a remote site.
They arrive at a World War II bunker and a firefight with unseen assailants immediately results in one of their number injured and the rest of them pinned down. Inside the bunker, they discover Nazi paraphernalia, a strange-looking machine that Hunt takes an obsessive interest in, and a room full of corpses … No, wait; one of them’s still breathing.
Barker gets his team assembled and into the field within ten minutes. They’re at the bunker within another ten. From hereon in, and with the exception of a couple of engagements with their unseen foe above ground, he relegates most of the action to the shadowy corridors and dusty rooms of the bunker. The first indications of supernatural goings-on are effective for not being over-egged. Barker reveals the full implications of the Nazi zombies’ capabilities gradually, establishing the science subplot in tandem.
Tensions exacerbate amongst the mercenaries. A revelation courtesy of a Nazi propaganda film reel scored to Wagner* puts things in context. We’re nearly an hour into an 86 minute film before the first of the group discovers how little the Geneva Convention matters to undead National Socialists. By this point, Barker’s ramped up the tension and created an atmosphere you could cut with a knife.
‘Outpost’ has a few flaws – the dialogue is often blandly utilitarian and heavy on testosterone; apart from Hunt, DC and Prior, the characters are cardboard cut-outs; the ending seems slightly rushed; and the alternative ending on the DVD’s special features is conceptually more interesting than the rather obvious coda the filmmakers went for in the theatrical cut – but even if ‘Outpost’, in the final analysis, is a good film rather than a great one, it’s still that rarest of beasts: a pretty damn good Nazi zombie film.
*One of two perfectly chosen classical pieces on the soundtrack. The other is the best use of Beethoven’s Ninth since ‘A Clockwork Orange’ (Prior’s “I fuckin’ love culture” line is priceless).