Barely over an hour long, Rammbock is a fast paced and claustrophobic tale of an Austrian man stuck in Berlin during the midst of a viral outbreak that turns people into bloodthirsty killers. While the North American release may carry the subtitle Berlin Undead, there seems to be no indication that those infected are indeed the undead, but are more akin to those infected by the rage virus in 28 Days Later and its sequel. Nevertheless, if you are able to get around this zombie faux pas, you may find enjoyment in this short, but exciting film.
The film focuses on a man named Michael, who travels to Berlin to return the keys to his long-distance girlfriend’s apartment after she tells him that she wants to break up. Rather than just mail her the keys, he goes out of his way to bring them in person with the intention of winning her back. Opening on him first arriving at her apartment building, the film’s entire runtime, for the most part, remains inside of this small structure shaped like a circle, with a concrete courtyard in the middle. Shortly after arriving, all hell breaks loose (if you don’t mind me using a very cliché term), and Michael is trapped in the building, with his ex nowhere to be found.
Besides having similarities with 28 Days Later, the film is also very reminiscent of the Spanish film [Rec] due to the extensive use of handy cam, the incredibly claustrophobic feeling of the apartment building with its narrow stairwells, and the assortment of tenants that are also trapped. Because the film never leaves the perspective of its protagonist, Michael, what we know about the tenants is very limited, as their only means of communication is from window to window across the courtyard.
Despite being only an hour runtime, I was surprised by how it felt much longer than it actually was. I mean that in a good way, as the story moved at a good clip and didn’t drag out in any parts. A few similar “zombie movie” tropes show up, such as the survivor who is a selfish dick, and the hatching of an escape plan to travel to an assumed rescue point, but they shouldn’t get in the way of your enjoyment. I did appreciate how the main character, or anyone really, did not go into Rambo mode and immediately become a hero. When I come to think about it, I can’t remember any “zombies” that were even killed by anyone. Most of everyone’s time is spent barricading themselves in.
Rammbock was director Marvin Kren’s first feature film (barely), and I can say I’m looking forward to seeing more of his work. The limited confines of the building the film takes place in and the natural lighting used all lend themselves to creating a very claustrophobic atmosphere. The actors don’t overact, and behave like actual human beings would in the midst of a crisis rather than putting on hero-pants and stepping up to save the day. I would recommend this film to anyone who appreciates a good “zombie” movie that isn’t exactly a Resident Evil beautiful-actors-CG-run-and-gun, but rather a simple character drama that happens to have “zombies” beating down the doors.