War-torn Eastern Europe in the present day, and a band of soldiers have been assembled by British scientist Hunt (Julian Wadham) to carry out an excursion for him. When their leader, D.C. (Ray Stevenson) met with him in a dingy bar he thought the reason he wanted to take a trip to such a remote area was for gold, but he doesn't know the half of it, and now his mercenaries are cramped together in the back of a truck, grimly considering the mission ahead. At least they will be paid handsomely for it - if they survive.
Outpost was a low budget horror that appeared to be cashing in on the then-popular zombie movie craze, but unlike other efforts in that genre where the cast were brought together to be chomped by the extras much the same as happened in every other zombie movie ever, or so it seemed, here director Steve Barker and his screenwriter Rae Brunton worked up something more akin to the grandaddy of its style, Shock Waves. That's right, it wasn't any old undead we were dealing with, they were Nazi zombies, a rarely seen but quite formidable strain of the shocker villains.
Not that they hog the screen here, as for the first half they don't show up at all, or rather they're there, but you just cannot see them. This leads to a fair amount of tension building, not a bad idea if you're working with a low budget, and the motley cast of various nationalities have enough individual character to keep things interesting. A little more wit would not have gone amiss in their terse conversations, but they were intended to be tough ex-soldiers after all, and the dialogue reflects that with lots of swearing and macho grumbling. Much the same kind of thing you'd have seen in anything going back as far as The Dirty Dozen, but it was successful enough here.
Also noticeable about the all-male cast was that not one of the main players appeared to be under forty; there were some grizzled faces here for sure, but to be fair they were not as old as the Nazis, who somehow have managed to endure into the twenty-first century. Quite how they have done so is the subject of some weird pseudoscience which sees Hunt namechecking The Philadelphia Experiment as if that were genuine and able to back up his theories of how the bad guys are able to time travel and flit around like ghosts. Not that the comparisons to spectres are altogether solid, because when they get down to the business of bumping off the soldiers they are very capable indeed.
Barker, working with limited locations (actually not Eastern Europe but the Scottish countryside instead), concocted a pleasing atmosphere of doom and desolation, even if it was clear the essential plot had been dreamed up over one too many games of Wolfenstein. Mixing the claustrophobic conditions of the bunker with the rainswept outdoors, the effect was memorably dejected, and if you could have divined how this would turn out for the heroes simply by surveying the weather, you would surmise any optimism was misplaced. This deliberately downbeat air contributed to the sense of hopelessness that many horrors aimed for, but where that could be tiresome in less skilled hands, here it was more impressive. Perhaps there was not enough variety in the storyline, leaving you with few real surprises, but the mix of Nazi technology and modern day ingenuity left one of the better examples of its kind. Music by James Brett.