"Straight Into Darkness"
Quite possibly the best
World War II film ever released is now sitting on your video store
shelves. And Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks had absolutely nothing
to do with it.
Though, if they’re seeing this, they likely wish they did.
So what we have here is another in a long string of WWII films,
some fantastic, and some pretty lousy. In this case, two soldiers,
Losey and Deming, desert their platoon during the last days of the
war and as they’re being escorted by derisive military police
back to the front lines (or possibly a firing squad), they find
themselves struggling across Germany in a bid for survival. Along
their way, they run into a band of orphans who have, apparently,
been trained as surprisingly vicious killing machines.
Now, already, I can’t help but give “Straight Into Darkness”
a whole lot of credit for introducing a new and impressive new dimension
into World War II filmmaking—cowardice. No one ever shows
cowardice in World War II films. Nearly all of them feature some
kind of superhuman heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. Any
time someone gets scared in a WWII film, it’s either so temporary
that you barely remember it, or some father-figure sergeant or lieutenant
or what have you talks the character with the fear right out of
I frankly can’t recall the last time I saw a WWII movie about
actual deserters, and this makes it a proverbial one in a million
The fact that this movie has such an incredibly unique plot line—deserter
heroes aren’t the only thing here that’s original; killer
orphans are just as equally rare—alone qualifies it as a rare
treat. But what’s even better is the execution.
I believe firmly that somewhere, right now, Steven Spielberg is
watching this and gnashing his teeth in a mixture of awe and horror.
He is screaming at the walls, asking how on earth he didn’t
think of this first.
Because folks…”Band of Brothers” was good stuff,
but “Straight Into Darkness” makes the brothers look
like redheaded stepchildren.
The performances turned in are excellent. The constant cutaway film
style—where there are constantly little flashes of events
seemingly unrelated to the plot—gives the movie this marvelous
disjointed feeling. And in this case, it works well; because while
the film is disjointed, it’s still perfectly coherent. What
this does is give you the feeling of war in all its chaotic fury,
and yet still allows the narrative to be straightforward and perfectly
What’s even better is that we get to see our deserter heroes’
lives from before the war. Friends, family, horrors and triumphs
alike, all are shown and add up to a perfect slice-of-life glimpse
at our two characters.
You can throw all the film school jargon you like at it, but when
you come right down to it, it all means one thing. “Straight
Into Darkness” is damn good movie.
And by the time they start introducing the militant chapter of war
orphans, well, you can tell that this sucker’s going to take
some fantastically surreal twists and turns before it’s all
said and done. For instance, get a real good look at the leatherfaced
girl at forty nine minutes nine seconds. She shows up earlier, but
you get a good look at her here. Anyway, she’s an excellent
example of the surrealism we’ve got going on here. Deformed
orphans, jump cuts, creepy plot—everything you could need
is right here.
That’s possibly the best part about “Straight Into Darkness”—not
only is it a truly unique WWII film, but it’s also a first
of its kind horror movie as well. There have been WWII horror movies
before, but never on this scale and this kind of quality. It’s
actually almost a weird blend of “Saving Private Ryan”
and “The Freakmaker”. Watching legless children bounce
around on their hands and blast Nazis is truly a singular surprise.
The ending is a little bit implausible, but only a little bit. Watching
ten kids, an old man, a woman and two American army regulars decimate
a sixty-man detachment of Wehrmacht (as evidenced by the tank with
them) is just a little farfetched, but still incredibly exciting.
Poland has got to be feeling pretty bad right now (We lost to this?).
Not to mention France (We surrendered to this?).
The special features include a photo gallery, a music video, audio
options, a flashback sequence from Losey’s pre-war life, a
short film called “Child’s Play”, a documentary
called “Path Into Darkness”, director commentary, and
trailers for “Stoned” and “Day of Wrath”.
All in all, “Straight Into Darkness” is a definite front-runner
for the title of best World War II Movie. High quality acting, a
storyline nothing short of singular, fantastic effects work, and
everything else that makes a movie choice is included right here.
“Straight Into Darkness” is absolutely worth your time
Directed by Jeff Burr
Written by Jeff Burr
Starring Ryan Francis, Scott MacDonald, James Legros, Linda Thorson
Produced by Mark Hannah, Chuck Williams
out the Video Store Guy on his own ever-lovin' website. Featuring
never before seen pieces exclusive to Reel Advice! (reel.panel2panel.com)