Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rammbock - A German Zombie Movie?!

I don't like German movies at all. I don't know what it is about them. First of all, I think they are using different equipment. I actually tried to look this up. Are they using a different kind of camera, a different format, a different medium? Whichever way it may be, you can often tell a German movie from an American or British one just by looking at a still frame. Then the actors. Are German actors inherently bad? I've enjoyed watching Inglourious Basterds immensely so I think German actors just need someone who directs them the right way. Except for Til Schweiger, he just made his Til Schweiger-face and it coincidentally fit his specific character in that movie perfectly. So over time I just stopped exposing myself to German movies because every time I gave them a chance I was very disappointed. Maybe I should give them a chance again.

I sort of DID give it a try because one evening the second public German TV channel showed... a zombie movie! Unknown director, unknown actors, just a shortish little movie created out of the desire to make a zombie movie. Its name is Rammbock (yes, as in Rammstein) and it takes place in Germany's capital city Berlin. Actually one of the nice parts about Rammbock is that it mainly takes place in one building. Michael, the main protagonist of the movie visits his ex-girlfriend Gabi in an pathetic attempt to use the handing-over of the old house-key as an excuse to see her one last time and maybe convince her not to dump him. As he enters her flat he only finds a plumber working on the heating in the apartment. It's this handyman that becomes the first zombie of the film and attacks Michael as well as his own apprentice. They manage to lock the zombies out and from then on are able to communicate with the neighbours by shouting out of the windows into the joint courtyard.

The whole movie being set in one construction, one house is very reminiscent of the Spanish zombie movie [REC], which I enjoyed a lot as well by the way. It's a very close-up look at how a zombie apocalypse would affect the lives of people in the very first moments, especially if they find themselves unarmed. Rammbock is not to be understood as a classical low-budget splatter zombie movie. There are actually not many scenes of on-screen violence, most of the time it's the neighbours watching people getting mobbed by zombies in the courtyard. I thought that especially the open courtyard as a tool of communication, the ability to see into the other person's flat but not be able to really reach the people was a very clever and interesting device. What also makes Rammbock stand out are its characters. Even though you don't get to know a lot about Michael and the young apprentice Harper their dialogue is authentic and at times funny.

Michael is a terribly annoying guy, constantly worrying about his ex-girlfriend. This may sound reasonable for a zombie apocalypse movie but instead of fearing for her life, he worries about whether she might be upset when she comes back and finds that he and Harper wrecked some of her flat and he also scolds Harper for trying to build some weapons out of forks. By the time that he insists they have to leave the safety of the barricaded flat to go get his cellphone that he lost on the staircase the viewer is fully convinced that Michael is an idiot. Of course this is a textbook example of social commentary on the real world wrapped up in a zombie movie. Lines like "don't scribble on that, I wanted to sell it on ebay!" also come up.

Aside from unusual characters Rammbock also offers some bits of unique zombie features. Now, sensitivity to light is not unheard of in the zombie genre and it does come in handy for our group but the most interesting new twist about the zombie virus in this movie is that it's only triggered by adrenaline. If a person is infected the infection will only spread and turn the person if they're becoming upset or are triggering a release of adrenaline in a similar fashion. If no release of adrenaline is triggered the infection might be defeated by the immune system within a day or so. But since this is the zombie apocalypse remaining calm is not an option and thus sedative pills become very important for the containment of the disease.

Rammbock is just a good zombie movie. With its 63 minutes of runtime it is quite short but manages to tell a round story nonetheless. I always find it interesting to watch zombie movies from other countries than the US because the great majority seems to come from over there. But movies like [REC] or 28 Days Later just feel like they hit much more close to home, maybe solely for the fact that gun laws over here are stricter. I don't know one shop or even a place where I could find a gun in this city, which makes planning ahead for the zombie apocalypse quite hard. Thus, watching zombie movies in which the general public is completely unarmed feel more realistic to my personal life situation.

If you liked [REC] you should definitely check this one out, even though [REC] of course has more action and more scary scenes. Even if you liked 28 Days Later you might want to check this one out, though 28 Days Later of course has a different overall feel, a much bigger budget and much more action. If German movies more often went into this direction maybe checking them out wouldn't be such a bad idea.

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