Note: Despite that awesome cover, know there are no zombies anywhere in this film. Unless you count the director, screenwriter and actors.
Is it law that any film with a group of people trapped in one locale must have Friedrich Nietzsche’s abyss quote as an opening title? That’s a great quote, no question, but it is a tad over used as a title card. We get it. The horrors of the unknown are the horrors one projects unto them. Such are the woes of seven German soldiers waiting out a, supposedly, pursuing American army inside the titular isolated anti-tank bunker. Oh, and the bunker just so happens to connect to a labyrinth of underground tunnels the Nazi’s abandoned mid build due to a swell of fear among workers.
The Bunker is, like many before it, a fairly straightforward story of supernatural cabin fever. The twist comes by way of the setting and characters, the only problem is that not a single actor in the film makes any attempt to hide their British accent. Not a one. Even if you aren’t a Nazi about historical accuracy, this terrible concession is way too distracting for the viewer. Accents are, normally, a trivial thing, but you’d be amazed how efficiently Germans with Brit accents can destroy the wall between viewer and film.
Accents are eventually forgivable, but they are indicative of production choices that consistently fall short of being what they should be. The direction is half assed, looking as stylistically plain as countless other British films and TV dramas. Barely alive camera movement in stagnant lighting, relying almost exclusively on the mid-level shot and actors seen from the waist up to bring life to the screen. The hitch is the characterizations, which, while never outright bad, are compartmentalized and interchangeable. It takes an hour not only to get past the accents, but to be able to tell one soldier apart from the other. And there are only seven people in the main cast!
It is around this hour mark that the film finally starts to give you a reason to care. The characters, while not all coming into their own, are at least finally motivated to do more interesting things. The haunting past they are all running from starts to assemble itself the terrible symptom of war it is. Director Rob Green, at last, learns how to sustain a minimal sense of tension that culminates in a nicely down showdown to get out of the bunker’s tunnels.
All of this is too little to late to make the film anything great, but it is at least enough to bring it back from the brink of becoming nothingness itself. There really isn’t a reason to recommend The Bunker, unless you are a 12 year old boy who likes spook stories and World War II. You won’t find an exemplary showing of either spooks or WWII, but instead a mediocre combination of the two that will make some kind of an impression at that impressionable age. For those more veteran viewers, we’ve seen all this before. The setting is different, but you know exactly what is going to happen.
Watching The Bunker is like rubbernecking in traffic to see if the accident on the side of the road was brutal enough to justify slowing down an hour of your life.