Review: Code Red (DVD)

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Title: Code Red
Format: DVD
Release Date: February 4, 2014
Studio: Entertainment One
Original MSRP: $19.98
Number of Discs: 1
Language: English
Subtitles: English
MPAA Rating: NR

Audio Review:
The audio review for this is available on Episode 357 of the podcast.

Story:
During World War II, Stalin commissioned a nasty nerve gas designed to reanimate corpses, as you do when you’re a dictator. It was used only once, during the Battle of Stalingrad with only one survivor. All records of it were destroyed and the toxin itself was lost to history.

Cut to present day Eastern Europe, where the US is preparing to take control of a Bulgarian military base. Weeks before the handover, while working on an inventory of the eight underground levels of World War II era weapons, a barrel is knocked loose killing a soldier… can you see where this is going?

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The NATO doctor in charge, Ana Bennett (Manal El-Fietury) is relieved of duty in an attempted cover-up. Our hero, John McGahey (Paul Logan), part of the US Special Forces, is sent in undercover as a weapons inspector investigating thefts in the lead up to the handover of the base. His mission is to contact the doctor and find and secure the gas if possible.

Of course, things go wrong. The weapons cache explodes and zombies run amok. It all seems to be going by the numbers, standard low-budget, Eastern Europe, military-zombie fare, but then an interesting thing happens. On the way to the safety of a bunker, Doctor Bennett and her young daughter (Mya-Lecia Naylor) get separated and suddenly the movie is more about a little girl, lost, scared and trying to survive while her mother is desperately searching for her. McGahey will obviously figure into her survival, but the shift that the movie took and the way it got to the conclusion actually surprised me and kept me interested long after I had expected to write it off.

Don’t get me wrong, Saving Private Ryan this is not. While Logan has an eighteen year career under his belt and does a decent job, this is only El-Fietury’s second role and first with any substance. For the most part she does well enough, but some of her lines fall flat. The surprises come in the supporting cast, especially with Naylor turning in a thoroughly believable performance as a lost and terrified child in the midst of chaos. The rest of the acting is a mixed bag, with some good performances and some terrible.

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Video:
Overall, the movie looked a lot better than I expected. It’s obviously a lower budget film, but the money was spent very wisely. Locations were chosen with care and crowd scenes, especially the rush to the bunker, add a lot.

The movie starts in World War II and the stunt work with huge explosions, fire, bullets and death really elevated the movie in a big way. It helps to set the tone and makes you expect more from this than just another low budget zombie flick.

The use of green screen is excellent overall. It’s obvious in a few places but while watching the extras I was surprised at how much more prevalent it was than I initially thought. I did have a problem with the zombies themselves. Make-up artists seem to be going more and more over the top in trying to make their zombies look unique but it just ends up looking like a person wearing a large rubber mask. I think a lot of these movies could benefit from the “less is more” mantra and put that money elsewhere in the film.

Audio:
Overall, pretty good. The music didn’t stand out in any way, but neither did it detract from the movie by being obviously cheesy. Explosions, bullets, flamethrowers, everything sounded great. Dialogue comes across clear in the center channel with no real problems. It’s not going to give your surround sound a workout, but it’s fine for the movie at hand.

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Bonus Features:
A little thin, but there’s some interesting stuff here, especially in the Behind the Scenes and Outtakes sections where you get to see how the various scenes were put together from multiple angles and takes.

  • 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

Conclusion:
I expected a run-of-the-mill soldier guy fights zombie outbreak in Eastern Europe but the movie threw me a curve ball and that alone made it worth watching. The acting ranges from terrible to better than average and the effects were great (minus the zombie makeup).

The story was certainly unexpected and while it’s not the type of movie I’d expect to see in the theaters, for a Friday night DVD, it’s worth a go. It’s definitely a huge step up from the schlocky SyFy fare. Keep your expectations low and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the movie using the
Elgato Game Capture HD Pro screen capture feature.

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