More than seven decades after the Battle of Stalingrad, a mysterious nerve-gas created by Joseph Stalin unleashes an undead wave of terror through the streets of modern-day Bulgaria. World War II was raging across Europe when Stalin created a top-secret biochemical weapon that could decimate his enemies. Later, when the smoke cleared over Stalingrad, the powerful nerve gas was nowhere to be found. Flash forward over 70 years, and there’s a strange wind blowing through the streets of Bulgaria. Corpses are climbing out of their graves, and the streets have been overrun by flesh-eating mutants. Though it’s too late to contain the infection, US Special Forces Captain John McGahey (Paul Logan) and NATO Dr. Ana Bennett (Manal El-Feitury) are determined to escape the country alive. But they better be fast, because now the entire country is on Code Red, and it won’t be long until the bombs start to fall
My initial impression when I got this film to review that it would be the standard run-of-the-mill zombie film, with poor acting and low budget. That sort of thing is in my wheelhouse, so I wanted to check it out. However, I was really blown away by this film. The opening sequences are shot to be during WWII during the battle of Stalingrad. The film work on this was beautiful. The photography really captured the look and feel of battle. The costumes and gore where phenomenal. Being a small-budget film, the filmmakers chose wisely where to spend the budget, because off the bat, I was hooked.
The rest of the film is set in modern day Bulgaria. The biochemical weapon has resurfaced and US Special Forces John McGahey and NATO doctor Ana Bennet must escape the infected zone. The latter half of the film didn’t hold up as well as the opening WWII sequences, but by this point, it didn’t matter much because I was already caught up in the film. Why do I say this? In the latter half, the story has to be a bit more dialogue driven in order to advance the story. In this, the acting was very good for a small budget horror film, but wasn’t in the same league as an American Hustle. Some of the performances were much better than others, so scene by scene you had variations in acting quality. But again, the locations and action scenes spoke for themselves and are clearly the stronghold of Code Red. Also, I wouldn’t classify this film as a zombie movie, per se, but rather more in the class of a 28 Days Later. And much to the dismay of George A. Romero, the zombies in Code Red run fast.
All in all, this was a more than solid film. The film violence was gory and over the top (necessary for any good small budget horror film). There were plenty of jump scares and squeeze your armrest moments. The film was shot extremely well, with beautiful camera work. The locations were amazing. The special effects were great for a small budget feature. The acting was pretty decent. And the movie had a good balance of taking itself seriously, but also not too seriously by putting just enough over the top stuff in it. I’ve seen a ton of zombie and horror flicks over the years and most let you down in one way or another. Code Red was a definite cut above. So don’t go in there expecting Syfy Channel crap. The WWII scenes alone could stand up with any zombie or horror film in recent memory.
This is a definite movie to check out.
The Making of Code Red (11:30) – Not quite a Making of, more of a Q&A with each of the three main characters in one-on-one sessions
WW2 Uncut (12:39) – The Battle of Stalingrad at the beginning of the movie with some extra footage and unfinished shots giving you a look at the green screen work
Behind the Scenes and Outtakes
Aunt Koina (3:10) – Multiple takes and camera angles showing how a scene comes together
John Is Attacked By Zombies (2:42) – Multiple takes and camera angles showing how a scene comes together
Vlad’s Rehearsal (:40) – Scene rehearsal
Title: Code Red
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Studio: Entertainment One
Original MSRP: $19.98
Number of Discs: 1
MPAA Rating: NR