Movie Review: “Rammbock”

When was the last time a zombie movie touched you, made an emotional connection? It’s been a while, right? Maybe a moment or a character in “28 Days Later.” But before that? And after it?

That’s what jumps at you in “Rammbock” (“Siege of the Dead”), a lean little German zombie thriller opening in select cities for a limited run on May 4.

A peripheral character in this film, a husband, has run out of tranquilizers for his infected wife. She snarls and snaps at him and the two heroes of the film who have come to his apartment for help. The husband holds out his arms for his beloved, she leaps for him and he embraces her and takes her right out the window with him, an expression of love so eternal that I can’t recall it ever happening in a zombie movie before.

But there are a few moments with this sort of pathos in this generally light, brisk (just over an hour) German film from writer Benjamin Hessler and director Marvin Kren. That makes “Rammbock” stand out from the ever-growing  zombie movie pack.

Michael or “Michi” (Michael Fuith) has come to Berlin to confront Gabi, the longtime girlfriend who abruptly dumped him, by phone. He opens the door to her apartment, calls her and nobody’s home. A maintenance comes in to do some work, and suddenly goes berserk and is dispatched in a geyser of blood.

The disease, “like rabies or something” hits and become “Germany’s 9/11.” Zombies are staggering through the streets and into the courtyard of a small apartment block. The residents there are terrified, behind locked doors, able to communicate through their windows as they look down on the menace below.

Michi finds himself penned up with handyman Harper (Theo Thebs),  a guy who is a bit quicker to recognize what’s going on as an apocalypse of sorts. Michi is frantically calling Gabi’s cell phone and stupidly protecting her property, her silverware, from Harper’s efforts to protect them as the world is ending just outside their door.

“Rammbock” follows them through a harrowing couple of days, penned in.  There are craven moments, as some neighbors cower and insist that “somebody” lock the gate so the zombies can’t get back into the courtyard — nobody wants to take that risk. And there are comic and even heroic ones as these survivors improvise a way of getting from apartment to apartment without opening the front door.

And through it all, Michi’s love is strong. He is still determined to find Gabi and rescue her. If she’ll still have him. Fuith is a wonderful blend of comically hapless and heartsick in the part.

It’s not as scary as “28 Days Later,” not as funny as “Zombieland” or “Shaun of the Dead” (which has a similar save-the-girlfriend story). But “Rammbock” is scores with its pathos and its DIY ethos. With every film student on the planet plotting his or her chance to slap ragged clothes and makeup on actors good at lurching, “Rammbock” may turn out to be the most valuable and instructive zombie movie of them all. Laughs and exploding heads? Seen it, done it. But a zombie movie with heart? That’s novel.

MPAA rating: R for some horror violence.

Cast: Michael Fuith, Theo Thebs, Anna Graczyk

Credits: Directed by Marvin Kren, written by Benjamin Hessler and produced by Sigrid Hoerner.  A Bloody Disgusting Selects release. Running time: 1:04.

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