Rammbock is the first film to be released in the Bloody Disgusting Selects series, a distribution deal organized by the horror news website bloody-disgusting.com to bring new indie and foreign films to light. Though a German language offering, Rammbock speaks the universal language: Zombie apocalypse.
Just when Michael arrives in Berlin to visit his ex-girlfriend Gabi, a terrible virus starts spreading across the city at a rapid pace, turning people into mindless homicidal maniacs. Much to Michael’s concern Gabi’s not home; instead, he meets Harper, a teenage plumber’s apprentice at work in her apartment block. Together, they barricade themselves when raging hordes of infected people swarm the building. Surrounded by the zombies, Michael and Harper have their hands full to survive – and it will take all of their ingenuity to make their way out to try and find Gabi.
Michael is an awkward guy. A somewhat bumbling, pitiable nerd whose girlfriend has moved away. He’s come to surprise her with a visit and to see if he can salvage anything of their relationship. The outbreak catches him off guard and he and Harper barricade themselves in her apartment. Michael at first tries to retain a sense of normalcy in the face of the disaster, worried that Gabi will be upset if they ruin her silverware trying to make weapons and fretting over her flowers while Harper plots escape. Michael’s more endearing qualities show through in these scenes as he comes to terms with how the world has changed and how these things are beyond repair.
The twist in the zombie infection for this film is that once someone is infected they don’t become the full-on raging, biting, clawing, tearing zombie until they trigger the transformation through a surge of adrenaline. People hope to preserve their infected friends and loved ones by trying to maintain a level of calm amid the outbreak or by drugging them with sedatives. Across the building’s courtyard other neighbors are also trying to survive and calling back and forth, they begin to form a plan to trade food and medicine. If they’re going to team up with these other survivors, Michael and Harper first need to get out of the apartment. Michael’s ingenuity comes through and he assembles the titular Rammbock (battering ram) to smash through into the next apartment. The story proceeds as the two are chased through the crawlspaces of the building, meeting with and separating from the other tenants and outsmarting the zombie attackers through further ingenuity and luck.
The film falls shy of feature length, clocking in just under an hour; short for a full ticket price which may turn some audience members off. Much like the British series Dead Set, it is well-formatted for a TV broadcast.
Jenny Dreadful adds: “Even when it feels like the zombie genre has outstayed its welcome, it’s great to have a chance to look abroad and find fresh perspective. Berlin is overrun with the undead in this case and it works quite well. What I specifically applaud about Rammbock is the sense of claustrophobia. It’s generally a quieter, slower film than your average U.S. braineater flick, but there are incredibly stressful sequences where the “safe” areas the characters can occupy are taken away rapidly. As Macgyver-style tactics become their only hope to survive.. as they are trapped with the violent horde spilling in, room by room, into tighter spaces until only inches remain, Rammbock: Berlin Undead has moments tense enough to take the breath away.
Anything else? It’s interesting to note that worldwide zombie cinema has taken a turn toward skipping the setup and beginning the story with an apocalypse conveniently underway. I love a slow reveal, but I know the zombie tropes… You know the zombie tropes. With all of the popular video games, books and other media out there, it’s common knowledge. Sometimes, it’s cool to just get on with it.”
Does it pass the Bechdel?
No. Once again, there are few female characters and they don’t get to interact, appearing mostly as appendages of another male character.
Would I recommend it?
I think Rammbock is worth the watching, especially for fans of REC or Mulberry Street. It’s a zombie film in the claustrophobic world of apartment dwellings. There is very little gore, unlike the typical films of the genre, which is unsurprising considering the heavy censorship that zombies have drawn from German ratings boards in the past few years. It’s lighter in tone as well with protagonists who are still ordinary people caught out of their depth by the whole affair and it features a few bizarrely funny moments. I think it’s the only time I’ve seen a zombie film in which a man tries to comfort someone else by offering to allow him to wear a bear suit.
There are only two more Bloody Disgusting Selects viewings of Rammbock: Berlin Undead left as this month comes to a close. Tonight at 10pm and midnight Friday at participating theaters. Theater list and ticket information here.