Steve Barker’s Outpost: Black Sun is the 2012 sequel to his 2008 Nazi zombie opus Outpost, unseen by me. Both films seem like an easy sell: Get a bunch of zombies together, put ‘em in Nazi uniforms. Do you even need a script after that? Actually, judging by what we’ve seen from the Nazi zombie subgenre to date (Dead Snow, Shockwaves), the genre could use a script punch-up. But not quite this punchy. Outpost: Black Sun is a richly convoluted film that involved so many bizarre leaps in logic and has so many bizarre plot holes, that I either missed an awful lot from the first film, or the filmmakers suspected (as I did) that zombie Nazis would be enough to carry a film. The truth, as in all cases, falls somewhere in the middle.
The previous Outpost took place during WWII. This film takes place in the present day and follows a young woman named Lena (Catherine Steadman, a dead ringer for Maggie Gyllenhaal) who has spent the last few years of her life tracking down very aged ex-Nazi generals hiding out in South America. If movies are any indicator, all German soldiers who survived the war are currently being hunted by bitter American descendants of WWII victims. One of Lena’s victims tips her off to the location of her final target (she’s been working down a list) and she treks to Russia to find him and to kill him. Lena, by the way, is not a weapon-toting badass, but more like a young soccer mom with a bad attitude. In Russia, she meets a rogue physicist named Wallace (Richard Coyle) who has been investigating a mysterious electromagnetic field that has spontaneously generated in the middle of the woods. We know from the box that Nazi zombies lurk inside.
Ordinarily, big gaping plot holes don’t bother me too much. If a film has good strong characters and a good tone, I am willing to forgive many plot discrepancies. But here, they were just too big to ignore. Why, for instance, have the Nazi zombies been hiding out here in the Russian woods for the last several decades? They seem hurt by electromagnetic pulses. Does that mean they’re electrical? Or are the zombies made by that drug they inject into their victims? Yes, zombies carry syringes in this world. Are they even zombies? They don’t seem so much rotten as monsterized. They don’t shamble or eat flesh, but they are unkillable, and look all green and gross. Why did the physiscist have so much trouble finding the electric zombie machine if he had a map of where it was? Did it really take him that long to figure out that the emanations were coming from the center of his map? Why did the military send in guys to shut down the Nazi zombie machine if they already had plans to blow up the entire area? Was that old woman who appeared late in the film a witch? Are the Nazis magical in some way? Is that why there was talk of runic scripts earlier in the film? And who was that guy wired into the central zombie battery? Yes, there’s a character who is wired into a machine. Why he was wired into a machine, the function of the human battery, or the role of the character, all remain oblique.
Even though the filmmaking is sound – the photography, editing, and acting are surprisingly professional for a film that was so low-budget – the film is a mess of half-thought-out story conceits, and bizarre action sequences that don’t connect to anything. The first third was kind of fun, because it was staged as an investigation. Once the Scottish military becomes involved (complete with all the clichéd military archetypes you would expect), the film starts to unravel. Only the sight of a wired-up battery man shooting lightning bolts from his hands through the heard of an undead Nazi stooge can save the film from itself. But even then, it feels kind of anticlimactic. And if a roboman with lightning fingertips frying zombies doesn’t make your film automatically better, then you’re definitely doing something wrong.
If my descriptions make Outpost: Black Sun sound appealing, then, well, you may dig it. Even though it’s a pretty bad film. I suspect there is a great Nazi zombie film lurking somehwhere in the future. Sadly, we have to keep on waiting to see it.