Outpost (2008) and Outpost: Black Sun (2012) pits contemporary mercenary soldiers against reanimated Nazi apparitions in a bunker deep inside Eastern Europe. These military horror films combine Nazi occultist pseudo-science, zombie/ghost super soldiers, and unscrupulous capitalist ventures into the plots. The story begins with a shady businessman, Hunt (Julian Wadham), approaching ex-Royal Marine turned mercenary, D.C. (Ray Stevenson) with a lucrative offer to escort Hunt to an abandoned bunker inside unspecified hostile territory. D.C. gathers his international unit of mercenaries and arrive to find the Nazi outpost littered with body parts, shaved and naked corpses, and an undead SS battalion. Ghosts methodically stalk and kill the soldiers in the shadows. Hunt admits his real goal is to acquire a Nazi device he calls “the holy grail of physics,” a machine capable of altering reality by bending space and time, creating an “alter reality.”[i] The mercenaries screen old films comparing the Nazi experiment with the failed Philadelphia Experiment, but the Nazis were apparently successful. The SS soldiers pop in and out of the bunker, inhabiting multiple dimensions, and picking off the intruders one by one. We learn the mountain of corpses are not victims of cruel experiments or atrocities, but German soldiers sent to destroy the outpost before it was overrun and used as fodder for the machine. D.C. and a few survivors stage a last stand against the ghost battalion, but their plan to use the machine against the apparitions falls apart. Outpost concludes with a NATO team arriving at the bunker to face the reenergized (literally) SS soldiers.
Outpost is awash in what can only be described as a Holocaust aesthetic – the look and feel of the bunker, its secluded location in the woods, and naked corpses stacked like cordwood in cold, brick rooms. This murderous space in a place time forgot is one we have seen before. The SS battalion is caught between fields, projecting themselves in the present with phantom gunfire, Beethoven music, and animated films portraying the super soldiers overtaking North America. That Nazi science could accomplish what Einstein and the Allies could only speculate about – unified field theory – awards the Third Reich a posthumous victory over “Jewish science.” Hunt’s relentless search for the magnificent invention underscores corporate greed and a cavalier disregard for World War II’s horrible legacies. Without Hunt’s corporate patronage the SS battalion would never have left the isolated and dormant bunker. D.C. and his band of rough mercenaries clearly have a dark past of their own, each hailing from a different corner of the blood-soaked globe. Their confrontation with the ghost battalion is a metaphorical battle with themselves, their atrocities, and the myriad reasons why none of them can ever go home again. As the absurdity and hopelessness of their plight sinks in, the gaunt mercenary, Prior (Richard Brake) quips to D.C., “We’ve killed everyone else. It’s about time we touched gloves with some Nazis.”[ii] Prior knows a reckoning is near, and perhaps dying at the hands of Nazis is poetic justice for the lives he and his comrades chose.
Outpost: Black Sun provides the backstory for the ghost battalion by introducing SS scientist General Klausener (David Gant), the genius behind the time and space bending device inside the bunker. Lena (Catherine Steadman), a young Jewish Nazi hunter intent on avenging her family’s murder in the Holocaust, interrogates one of Klausener’s associates dying in an old age home in South America and discovers information leading to the bunker. Neurath (Michael Byrne) scoffs at Lena’s pathetic search for justice, but hints at the true power of Klausener’s invention: “The Reich of a thousand years has not been hiding from the likes of you. It has simply been hiding in the shadows.”[iii] Lena learns Neurath and Klausener dispatched Hunt to secure the bunker on their behalf and previous missions disappeared without a trace. Lena travels to Europe and meets Wallace (Richard Coyle), a physicist who cautions her against following him to the bunker. She insists the two join forces with a professional NATO unit sent to destroy the ghost soldiers. Wallace tries to convince Lena killing Klausener is not enough. “They’ll always be somebody else,” he says, “Another Klausener . . . .” Lena is indifferent at first, “Yeah, well, the next one won’t be my problem.”[iv]
Lena changes her mind after discerning the magnitude of the danger and realizes killing one Nazi war criminal is insufficient. SS Brigadeführer Götz (Johnny Meres), who disguised himself as a victim in Outpost, strapped the still living Hunt to the device and expanded the energy field thereby enabling the ghost battalion to operate further away from the bunker. Since the events of Outpost the battalion resumes terrorizing and massacring nearby villages like the Nazis of old. Lena and Wallace convince the tortured Hunt to sacrifice himself and finally destroy the device and the ghost army with it. Before initiating the risky plan, Lena tells Wallace, “Two days ago I thought all of this was about what these people had done. But its not, its only ever about what they were going to do.”[v] Lena, the millennial Nazi hunter realizes Neurath was correct – the Third Reich was hiding in the shadows, and presumably always will. Eternal vigilance is the only truly effective weapon in this war against an ideology that defies time and space.
[i] Outpost, directed by Steve Barker (Black Camel Pictures, 2008), DVD.
[iii] Outpost: Black Sun, directed by Steve Barker (Black Camel Pictures, 2012), DVD.
[iv] Outpost: Black Sun.
[v] Outpost: Black Sun.