By: John M Jerva
When one delves into lower budgeted B movie mash ups, you have to usually take the finished product with a grain of salt. Most of the time, when filmmakers combine genres, they are usually aiming high for a desired effect and more times than not, the movie that is a result is a mixed bag.
Case in point, we have the war film mixed with horror tropes that seem to be the popular breed of the day. I’ll have to admit, when it’s done right, there’s nothing better than a war movie with supernatural or horror elements that serves up a bloody good time. The most recent success we saw of this was Overlord which was a definite roller coaster ride of over-the-top excess. It swung for the fence and pretty much delivered an insane mixing of genres, and it was a legit adrenaline rush.
Now we have our newest entry in this popular sub-genre which is called WARHUNT. The title is certainly cool and inviting for fans of this caliber of film and the cast is pretty top notch with the always game Robert Knepper leading the way along with Jackson Rathbone and Mickey Rourke who once again is more of an extended cameo. Rourke is starring to remind me of Bruce Willis nowadays as he’s always front and center in the marketing but rarely is on a movie for any length of time.
Warhunt starts out simple enough as we have a plane transporting something very important which mysteriously crashes in the dreaded Black Forest in Germany. The contents of what was on this plane can definitely turn the tide of war and it’s something that Major Johnson (Mickey Rourke) wants in a big way.
Johnson tasks Sgt. Brewer (Knepper) and his unit to find the wreckage and recover the sensitive materials at all costs. There is a catch and that is Johnson enlists Walsh (Jackson Rathbone) to accompany Brewer and his men on the retrieval mission which is something that doesn’t sit well with Brewer immediately. There’s more to Walsh that meets the eye of course. He follows orders though and with that, the unit is on its way to locate the crash site before the Germans do.
Once Brewer, Walsh and the unit enter the dreaded Black Forest, things go from strange to downright bizarre from the get-go. They run into dead soldiers hanging from the trees Predator style and come across one pilot who has no internal organs. The men start to hear and see things that aren’t right and one by one, the soldiers are eliminated by an unforeseen, dark force and it’s clear that they are up against something that this war has never seen.
Warhunt, which hails from director Mauro Borrelli who also wrote the screenplay with Scott Svatos, and Reggie Keyohara III is a definite play on The Twilight Zone and it plays like an extended episode in the popular series repertoire. There’s enough brooding atmosphere and chills to fill the running time and while it never reaches the ultimate heights of scary, it still delivers a few moments of macabre goodness that should satisfy fans of material like this.
Robert Knepper is one of those actors that elevates all the projects that he’s involved in with his second to none gravitas and here as Brewer, he chews up the scenery with a solid character arc that goes from loyal leader to paranoid killer in a matter of minutes. I actually thought that he would play out more in the film’s final act so that was a little disappointing as he is one of the best aspects of the film. Still, whenever he’s on screen, Warhunt is better for it.
As the mysterious Walsh, Jackson Rathbone, who was featured heavily in the Twilight franchise, brings a sense of heroism and collectiveness to the proceedings. When everyone else is losing it, Walsh keeps his cool and trudges on as he tries to complete his mission and figure out just what the hell is going on. We know that there’s more layers to Walsh but unfortunately, we never really get to peel them back to see what he’s really all about.
Like I said before, you pretty much know what you’re going to get with Mickey Rourke nowadays. Just like Willis, he shows up for a few days of shooting and then is plastered front and center on the poster and DVD cover art. I will admit that Rourke is in the film more than I thought he would be and while he’s only in a handful of scenes throughout, he is a bigger part of the climax just like in his other recent outing The Commando.
Fans of these types of films should get their fill of the macabre and while it never goes overboard with the gore, there is still a ton of blood to be had and when men die, the practical effects are welcoming. What works more than the violence is the atmosphere and it is here that Warhunt earns its medal. The true enemy is creepy to a point and while I won’t give too much away, they are a force to be reckoned with and the special effects really add something to the ordeal. When the evil comes out to play, it’s a delicious blend of smoke, mirrors and ravens.
The middle act does get dodgy with some clunky dialogue, and it does slow down to the point where you can’t help but think too fast forward to get to something good. Tighter pacing would have served well but this film can’t help avoiding that land mine. Also, aside from the top three actors, there isn’t any other truly memorable characters, and no one is especially likable to begin with.
In terms of action, Warhunt goes more of the horror route, but we do get a few firefights and hand to hand combat that allows it to earn its action/horror status. The scenes aren’t entirely memorable and it’s a shame that a lot of the action takes place in the dark as the lighting isn’t anything to write home about.
The finale is where most of the thrills come into play and while I would have liked to see more of a tactical approach to the sequence, it’s still a somewhat satisfying conclusion to the proceedings. Rourke and Rathbone prove to be the only ones left standing to reach the climax and their battle with the evil force does play it safe and it’s here that I would have liked to have seen a more balls out approach to the proceedings. If you’re going to make a movie like this, then go big and go in all the way. Even with a limited budget, you can still get creative with the excess.
One of my biggest gripes in horror movies is the cliche that you have to have an ambiguous or solemn surprise ending and it is here that Warhunt falls prey to this as there is no redeeming factor for any of the characters. Some people like these types of endings but I for one always need some type of closure to my stories. It’s gotten to the point that I knew the ending would be like this and sure enough I wasn’t disappointed in that respect. Take that for what it’s worth.
Overall, Warhunt doesn’t offer anything new or memorable to the war/horror sub-genre although it still entertains on some level. The cast is game, and the atmosphere and location is perfect to overcome a lot of the negatives and shortcomings. Knepper and Rathbone work well together and Rourke does have more to do with his character before the credits roll. There are bullets, chills and enough carnage to be had so go into with some low expectations and you might come out on the other side enjoying what this one has to offer.