Picking up a short while after the events of 2008's bloody zombie shocker, 'Outpost II: Black Sun' is a shockingly smart and entertaining follow-up that engages with a well though-out plot and amusing action sequences. We're not talking award-winning material here, but for a direct-to-video release, it reaches the level of diamond-in-the-rough with several extravagant set pieces and costumes, better than expected special effects, and decent acting from the entire cast. Rising above bargain-bin expectations at every turn, the sequel delivers easy escapist fun with a dramatic urgency that never plunges into goofiness while managing to never take itself too seriously either.
Steve Barker returns as director and co-writer, following a similar plotline as his previous feature-length debut effort. A mysterious man, effectively played by Richard Coyle, is traveling to a supposedly abandoned bunker where Nazi scientist Klausener developed the technology for reanimating corpses. What he wants is the generator-like device which makes it all possible, making his agenda particularly suspicious, especially when talking about the machine's monetary and military potential. Currently, Coyle is making a very strong impression in Luis Prieto's remake of Nicolas Winding Refn's 1996 crime thriller, 'Pusher.' And here, we have a glimpse of his talent as a man with several hidden attributes who thinks on his feet to obtain a single goal.
Barker pairs the actor with Catherine Steadman as the young, inexperienced Lena, another person with some outlandish grudge against the Nazis. She's far too young to be personally affected by the past atrocities of the Third Reich, but as we see in the opening moments, Barker cleverly makes it her duty to accomplish her father's mission of hunting down war criminals. And topping that list is none other than Klausener himself, a (fictionally) notorious and sadistic SS maniac that experimented mercilessly on the prisoners of the concentration he oversaw. Doing rather brilliantly in the role, Steadman's Lena is also our emotional link as the conspiracy unfolds before her eyes and ours.
Along their way to the secret, unknown location in the dark, creepy, foggy forests of Eastern Europe, Lena and Coyle's Wallace happen upon a small Special Forces Unit sent in to disarm the device with an EMP. A scurvy, cantankerous group in desperate need of some R&R, the soldiers hide their fear of seeing reanimated Storm Troopers well and are unpleasant bunch to be around. Then again, they're not really in this for gaining our sympathies. After all, they are the expendable fodder type, meant only to talk tough, grunt endlessly about the hopelessness of the mission, and shoot guns at the walking dead while the other two chase after the story's main point convincingly and competently. And this the DTV movie does with resounding satisfaction.
Barker demonstrates some proficiency and skill behind the camera, doing what he can to elevate his film beyond the production's low-budget restraints. Filling the screen with exciting battle sequences and a few thrilling close encounters, especially one involving a haggish Nazi nurse with her spine-tingling, witch-like laugh, the director arrives at a strong climatic finish efficiently. Tapping into what seems to be quickly growing as a horror staple, Barker takes advantage of the Nazi zombie idea and caricature — an otherwise laughable premise — and is slowly turning it into an enjoyable piece of entertainment that can continue. In fact, 'Outpost II: Black Sun' concludes with a set up for a third installment.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Arc Entertainment brings 'Outpost II: Black Sun' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack inside a blue eco-cutout keepcase. Sitting comfortably on opposing panels, the first is a Region Free, BD25 disc while the second is a DVD-9 copy of the movie. At startup, the disc commences with several skippable trailers before switching to the standard main menu window with full-motion clips and music.
The sequel to 'Outpost' arrives with an often good but generally dour and mediocre 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.40:1). Filmed entirely on high-definition cameras, the digital-to-digital transfer displays an intentionally drained color palette, giving the movie a very dark, sinister vibe. Of course, a few primaries, like reds and greens, bleed through, and a few scenes show strong amber overtones. The overall picture is very nicely detailed with plenty of distinct lines around faces, clothing and surrounding foliage. However, there is also a fair amount of soft, blurry scenes throughout, and I spotted some negligible banding here and there. Contrast also comes in on the lower end of the grayscale, and while blacks can look quite deep and inky, shadows look flat and murky which tends to obscure some of the background info.
Although the video comes with some disappoints, the low-budget DTV movie more than makes up for it with this highly enjoyable DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. There are several battle sequences which take advantage of the surrounds with the sounds of bullets and shrapnel whizzing all around while explosions in the distance ring throughout the forest. Quieter moments continue the mildly immersive experience with subtle ambient effects filling the living room. The front soundstage feels broad and expansive, exhibiting a well-balanced channel separation and a precise, detailed mid-range. Dialogue is cleanly delivered in the center and well-prioritized. Most impressive is the robust and sometimes commanding bass with several strong instances of ultra-low effects, making this lossless mix a great deal of fun.
Picking up a short while after the events of Steve Barker's bloody zombie debut, 'Outpost II: Black Sun' is a shockingly smart follow-up that engages and entertains. Barker elevates this low-budget B-movie beyond its production restraints and manages an action-packed horror thriller with a horde of Nazi zombies. The Blu-ray arrives with a passable but generally mediocre picture quality but an audio presentation that delights. The bonus section is sadly lacking, but for fans of the genre and those with an interest, the asking price is well worth it. Otherwise, this makes an enjoyable and satisfying rental.