Produced for about a million bucks, Horrors of War is an indie flick with a laundry list of obvious problems: It's got some pretty bad acting, the plot structure is all convoluted, and a good portion of the plot is dedicated to "chatty" moments that (in the long run) don't add up to a whole heck of a lot. But I like to judge movies based on two general questions: 1) "What did the filmmakers have to work with?" and 2) "How well did they accomplish what they set out to do?" In the case of Peter Ross and John Whitney's Horrors of War, my responses would be 1) "Not a whole lot," and 2) "For the most part, pretty good."
While at first I was surprised to see Horrors of War take such a dry and serious look at its subject matter, it took about 15 minutes before the tone of the piece really clicked with me. And then I started having fun. The plot -- broken as it is into three clunky sections -- has to do with a collection of bad-ass WWII soldiers (sprung from the brig, no less) who are sent deep into France to find some "intel" on the Nazis' plans. Suffice to say that our soldier-boys come across a few werewolves, a bunch of zombies, several unpleasant enemies, and (of course) a master plan involving Nazi occultism as its most aggressive.
But I wouldn't completely trust in that synopsis. Despite offering up a handful of well-edited and enjoyable action scenes, Horrors of War is not a flash-bang action-fest by any stretch of the imagination. In truth it feels more like a forgotten old monster movie from 1945 that somehow just popped up onto DVD. From the pulpy dialog and the occasionally overwrought performances, from the goofy monsters and the (surprisingly) moody score ... Horrors of War is an old-fashioned throwback all the way. So while it might have been just as easy to toss a bunch of frantic gore onto the screen -- that's not the indie flick that Ross and Whitney wanted to make. Love the movie or hate it, one finds it tough to knock the intent.
Go in expecting wall-to-wall gore and a whole lot of mayhem, and you'll probably end up disappointed. Click play and take Horrors of War even remotely seriously and you'll probably hate the flick. But taken strictly for what it is -- a cheap-but-affectionate love letter to old-school movie matinees -- Horrors of War is an admirable little indie that earns points for keeping a poker-straight face throughout all the craziness. It's far from the most electrifying indie horror flick you'll find, but if you appreciate the fine art of "poverty-stricken filmmaking," then you'll most likely admire a good deal of what's offered here.
Note: The version I'm reviewing is the Region 1 "director's cut" edition. I'm told there are other versions of this flick that are a whole lot clunkier.