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Battle Of The Damned (Blu-ray Review)

Battle-Of-The-DamnedThis is one of those situations where I’m “easy”.  Dolph Lundgren Vs. Zombies.  Sure!  Dolph Lundgren Vs. Zombies AND ROBOTS!  Sign me up now!  Battle Of The Damned promised me just that.  And going in, that’s what I really expect and no more.  Give me the vintage Dolph Lundgren goofy goods.  Give me the gore vicious Zombie treats.  Now, lets blend them.  I’m not going to lie to you, when I first saw the trailer for this one I got pretty excited.  I put on my “need to see” list, believe it or not.  With such little aspirations, it would seem hard for this film to fail.  But, Battle Of The Damned manages to make some choices behind the camera that doesn’t do it any favors on the viewers eyes and processing of the film.  The story is just fine, it’s the way its told that does the disservice.  Keep on reading and I’ll explain myself further.

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Film 

With every zombie film comes an explanation or setup to how we got the zombies in the film.  Because, lord knows, we can’t just accept that there’s zombies.  In this film, the zombies come from a virus.  This virus was created in Southeast Asia.  There was an outbreak, but the government was able to control it.  They Escape From New York’d it by building a wall around the whole area with a military guard surrounding it.  Nobody gets in, nobody gets out.  Inside the wall are both infected and non-infected people.

Enter Major Max Gatling.  Max and his mercenaries are tasked with entering the wall and rescuing the daughter of an industrialist who is the creator of the virus.  He’s promised that there’s little to no infected there anymore and that he should have no trouble entering or leaving.  When Max arrives, his team is all wiped out but he and another member.  A helicopter comes to their rescue.  Max’s team member boards, but Max will not leave until he’s finished his job.

I liked the setup of Battle Of The Damned and felt I might be in for some little treat from the get got.  I enjoy these movies that just kind of drop you into a smaller story revolving around a bigger concept.  The opening is pretty straightforward and brief, allowing the rest of the film to sort of develop and breath instead of spending 20-30 minutes setting up then rushing to the end or taking forever to get us to it.  It kind of rivals that age old adage from my youth “The president has been kidnapped by ninjas.  Are you a bad enough dude to rescue the president?”  Sometimes that really all you need to get going in a movie and I was happy to see this movie that sold me purely on Dolph Lundgren Vs Robots and Zombies was going that route.

My biggest troubles with Battle Of The Damned come in its execution.  And, I know this is a dead horse being beaten, but the shaky cam style chosen to tell this story severely kneecapped what could have been a joyful mindless action/zombie experience.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it was done mainly to hide the film’s relative cheapness.  But, I’d rather see the charm in the cheapness than have trouble seeing what was going on.  There’s many an action bit or sequence where I just couldn’t tell what was happening, or 2 consecutive shots really not matching up.  And it’s a shame too, as there are a few wide and establishing shots in the movie that look absolutely lovely.  Whenever the camera is still as well it looks pretty solid.  There are just too many moments in the action where it hurts it and then pointless times that it makes no sense to use it.

Another qualm I had was that…this is a zombie movie, give me some gory goodness!  For a movie that should have been the pairing of pure action meets zombie outbreak, it fell very flat in the graphic violence department.  Shots just sort of fly, and they connect, but most of the time you don’t see it (or that damn shaky cam doesn’t allow you to appreciate it).  Most of it is CG, yes, but its this weird black blood that comes out of the zombies when you do some a weapon connect and it just feels disconnecting watching it.  Movies on the SyFy channel make this one look really tame.

There were some good things I took from it, however.  This is one of Dolph’s better performances and he looks to be enjoying himself a lot.  Melanie Zanetti, who plays the daughter “Jude” was pretty terrific.  In a movie that really wasn’t asking for much, she was able to pull a wide range of emotions and exact all the major challenges her character faced with some real weight and believability.  It actually swung her character into a full arc.  Plus, the girl has some real presence to her and she stood out amongst her fellow cast mates as someone who might be headed toward bigger and better things.  She really gave her all her and its something that assisted yours truly in enjoying a lot of this that might have made for boredom if not for her.

Dolph Lundgren battling zombies and robots should have been as easy to pull off as it was to sell the film.  But, the film’s choice is storytelling style hurts what could have been a solid turn, rendering it sort of lost and generic.  It seemed it was almost afraid and ashamed of its budget, too worried about being the prestige picture its not, instead of embracing the B movie it was going to be all along.  Some might enjoy this one a little more than me, but I was slightly disappointed here and all my expectations were that I wanted to do was turn my brain off and mindlessly enjoy it.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1:78.1

Clarity/Detail: This is an extremely sharp and clear film.  At a few instances it looks a tad smudgy, but overall it’s a well defined picture, especially for how much they are trying to hide the film’s budget.

Depth: The film at hand is pretty claustrophobic and pretty mute in its color.  While not flat, it’s not a very deep image.  When they are at the dinner table in the hideout, some depth shines through and sometimes in the very few wide shots you get a glimpse, but otherwise it’s a little lacking.

Black Levels: This is on the end of being dark dark black.  I’m willing to bet it’s intentional as this film does things with the production to hide some of its cheapness.

Color Reproduction: While the film’s aesthetic tries to be devoid of color it is very bold in the ones it does use.  And when there is color, like the robots’ red and white, its nice and striking.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones are consistent throughout out. As cold as they want the image to be, the warmness of the skin shines through.

Noise/Artifacts: This is a recent film, shot on video, so I struggled to find any noise or artifacts on this disc.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s):  English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD

Subtitles: Spanish

Dynamics:  This sucker was kicking.  From loud explosions to toning it down during quiet moments in hollow empty building, the film delivered.  All the effects had different levels of volume as well.  This was a top notch presentation for a mediocre movie.

Low Frequency Extension:  Your subwoofer will bring the heat.  Especially at the end with a massive explosion.  Be it guns, robots or grenades, the film definitely utilizes its low end frequencies to a great standard.

Surround Sound Presentation: There was much interplay to the rear speakers, but in fight scenes or zombie attack scenes, the rear speakers handled themselves.  They enhanced the feeling of being trapped in the middle of everything.

Dialogue Reproduction:  The dialogue was clear, crisp and loud.  At times it did get swallowed up by the effects and the score, but nothing of true importance was unclear or missed.

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Extras 

This disc is super light on the extra fun.

Battling The Damned (HD, 6:40) – Just a little bit of on set footage during the shoot. No interviews or narrative.

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Summary 

It sucks, because prior to seeing this, I was hoping to be here telling you what a fun little romp this movie is.  Instead it takes a solid story and insanely fun concept and ruins it by being a shaky cam rip off mess that has no balls when it comes to the gore department.  The film has an outstanding presentation.  The extras is one lazy little piece of onset video.  Some may enjoy this one more than me, but I think this one had all the right things going for it until it was shot.  With better folks behind the camera, this could have been one of those B-movies that you tell your friends to check out if they have the extra time.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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