“World War Dead: Rise of the Fallen” starts out interestingly enough, as a voice-over walks us through a montage of imagery from the “Battle of the Somme,” France, circa 1916. We learn that the British and French fought the German empire leaving many wounded or killed.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of this historic battle, a film crew travels to the Somme to shoot a documentary. In an effort to increase ratings, the director of the documentary, Marcus, has plans to put a paranormal spin on the film. Marcus nudges his historian/co-host, Brian, to focus more on the legends surrounding the battle rather than actual historical events. Similarly, Marcus coerces television personality and co-host Emma to embellish the truth as well. From side discussions, we learn that Marcus has a history of fabrication, where he once inserted a CGI flying saucer in another documentary that got him temporarily blacklisted from television.
As the documentary crew start their adventure, Marcus is convinced that he saw something strange while filming establishing shots of the battlefield, but didn’t check the video to validate his beliefs because “there was no time” (more on this later). The story starts to pick up the pace and tension when the documentary crew finds a decayed corpse bound with chains submerged in a swamp. While examining the corpse, Brian finds an old amulet Inside its torso. Brian suggests that the soldier swallowed the amulet so the German army wouldn’t take it away – from the rather large size and jagged shape of this amulet, I couldn’t do anything but laugh at the absurdity of that statement. If the soldier did actually try to swallow the amulet, that’s probably what killed him, not the Germans.
Brian goes on to suggest that the amulet was used for black magic to bring the dead back to life. The discovery of the corpse and amulet are a great setup for what could have been a good story. However, shortly after the discovery of the corpse, the story quickly devolves into a zombie survival film, a plot that has already been played out in every conceivable iteration over the years since the zombie genre took-off. After a descent start, the film starts to go downhill from this point forward.
This film touches on one of my most dreaded pet peeves, the insertion of the camera user interface in the recorded footage – I have yet to see a camera that records the message “Night Mode Activated.”
If we are to judge this film’s authenticity as actual found footage, I’m obligated to mention the filmmakers’ use of background music throughout the film. Suffice it to say, had this been actual found footage, there would be no incidental music. Further, the camera editing and scene cuts are too clean and choreographed for raw footage. Giving the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt, some of this can be explained away if we are to assume that the footage was subsequently recovered and edited for viewing. However, this film also touches on one of my most dreaded pet peeves, the insertion of the camera user interface in the recorded footage – I have yet to see a camera that records the message “Night Mode Activated.”
Although the found footage authenticity is somewhat lacking, it’s the acting, plot, and pacing that are or greater concern. The cast lacked rapport and their interactions often come across as awkward. The one saving grace is the character Emma, the savvy television host/personality portrayed by Wendy Glenn, who gives a good performance, but this is not enough to save the film.
Like so many Found Footage films in the horror genre, the main characters invariably find themselves in a dark, confining labyrinth, from which they are unable to navigate out of. This film is no exception, as our characters find their “labyrinth” towards latter part of the film, and this is where the pace of the film comes to a deafening and prolonged crawl until the situation resolves itself.
As much as I would like to cast this film in a positive light, I find myself struggling to find enough redeeming qualities in “War of the Dead: Rise of the Fallen” to make it worthy of renting or purchasing. Even if we are too set aside the found footage inconsistencies, the film does not fair well. What starts as a good story quickly unravels due to a myriad of factors spanning from cinematographic direction and nonsensical plot elements, to poor pacing and unbalanced acting.