A few years back I caught a scrappy little indie horror film called Automaton Transfusion. It took a little while for that flick’s low-budget but earnest energy to hit me, but I was definitely enjoying the film on its own terms -- when it ended after 60-some minutes. We’re promised a sequel soon, but I couldn’t help but thinking the film was 1/3rd semi-dry, 1/3 enjoyably splattery, and 1/3 missing in action. As if the producers simply ran out of cash and then did all they could to make their hour-long flick worth watching.
The recent German import Rammbock reminds me a lot of Automaton Transfusion. Not only because both films deal with gore-soaked zombies, but mainly because Rammbock runs only 61 minutes and (unfortunately) comes to an abrupt halt just as things are getting interesting. It’s tough to imagine the group of filmmakers who look at their compelling but slightly unsatisfying hour-long film and think “Yes, it’s finished. Let’s hit the festival circuit now!”
But I’m here to judge what is in a film, not what isn’t, and by that measure, Rammbock does one thing right: it left me wanting a bit more. It’s the story of a dejected young man who decides to visit his ex-girlfriend in the hopes of reconciling their problems, but (as usual) a horrific and wholly unpleasant zombie outbreak occurs at the most inconvenient moment imaginable. So now our poor protagonist (he’s hardly a “hero”) must hole up in a vacant flat with a few random strangers around -- and all he can worry about is tracking down his estranged ex-girlfriend.
Rammbock presents the speedy ‘n’ furious sort of zombies made so popular in Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, and the attacks are both effectively creepy and generally quite brutal. But the theme that most interests director Marvin Kren and screenwriter Benjamin Hessler is that of love and loyalty. Rammbock might be a short feature film, but it does offer some fascinating subtext to munch upon; without spoiling anything, Rammbock takes the zombie apocalypse and uses it as a backdrop for a story about love, loss, loyalty and betrayal.
Plus the film moves quick, looks admirably downcast, and delivers a few scares both slightly cerebral and enjoyably icky. One hopes that Rammbock inspires the filmmakers to do a second chapter soon -- or perhaps to expand their hour-long experiment into a slightly meatier “full-length” feature.
In other words: the portions may be too small, but the food is still pretty tasty.