Australian low-budget horror about a German SS officer and his family who simply won’t let go of their Living Space. Effective sets, special effects and script compensate for mediocre acting and naff opening.
Nazi Undead (called Living Space until it reached the USA) is one of those low budget horror films which has plenty of both insults and praise cast at it, and I can see why. There are so many films about Nazi zombies that horror fans may despair of finding a decent one; and when they come across Nazi Undead, they may be disappointed: this is not a zombie film.
Young American couple Brad (Leigh Scully) and Ashley (Georgia Chara) are enjoying a holiday – by which I mean “squabbling” – in Germany when their car breaks down. Yes, it’s the middle of the night; and yes, they go seeking help from a spooky castle on a hill (so far, so Rocky Horror Picture Show). So the opening clichés and the couldn’t-quite-be-bothered dialogue makes Nazi Undead seem distinctly naff at first, but I was intrigued. Brad and Ashley spend the night at the spooky castle; nothing is ever the same for them again, and the film becomes steadily less naff as it goes along.
Chara is the actor we see most of on the screen, and she is excellent; indeed she won Best Actress at the 2019 Fantasporto International Film Festival for her portrayal of Ashley. She is able to take Ashley from submissive to resilient, with seamless development in the form of supernatural trial by fire. Scully has little to do but present the jock boyfriend, which he accomplishes with ease. The cast – including these two – are drawn from Australian TV. The film was shot entirely in Australia, though it does a perfectly good imitation of Germany; especially the interior of the big old house, which is dressed just as well as the World War II sets in The Good Liar.
This house, wouldn’t you know, turns out to be the former residence of an SS officer (Andy McPhee) and his family. The family has been reluctant to leave the house for all these years; why they have remained, and exactly in what form, is left a little ambiguous. They are sometimes shadows, sometimes apparitions, and then very tangible beings; sometimes seen in mirrors or on projected films (very effective device), and ultimately vicious torturers. Yes, Nazi Undead has some effective gore, both in terms of the imagery and special effects. The first time you see how they treat their visitors is chilling in its gruesome simplicity.
Nazi Undead is the first feature from writer/director Steven Spiel, and the first from cinematographer Branco Grabovac’s too, both having gained good experience on shorts before. As feature films go, this is not a long film though, at just eighty minutes; but once the structure of the nasty little plot becomes apparent, it’s clear that it doesn’t need to be longer. Despite the many horror tropes (ghosts with long hair and white nightgowns, overly dramatic music, etc.), this film has much to commend it, and I found it more and more satisfying as it progressed.