Ben Parker’s second, The effort of making a feature film is a different kind of war movie than audiences might expect. It’s a slower, stranger beat, and sometimes a more thoughtful kind of film. It wears its thematic prescriptions on its sleeves and chooses to forego larger-than-life action sequences. In some ways, it’s a blessing and a curse.
In “Burial”, Soviet troops led by Brana Vasilyeva (Charlotte Vega) are tasked with transporting the body of Adolf Hitler from the ruins of Berlin to Moscow in the aftermath of World War II. As they travel through Poland, they are attacked by German partisans in the desert, ultimately forced to choose between their mission and their lives.
The strength of “Burial” lies in its cinematography and sound design. The film is perfectly shot by cinematographer Rein Kotov. Darkness and uncertainty surround Brana’s team as they defend themselves in uncharted territory. The sound of bullets bursting and hissing instills as much tension as the sound of a branch snapping in the dark. Despite its flaws, the look of this film was lovingly crafted.
One of the film’s best scenes features German partisans drugging Soviet troops with hallucinogenic substances they seek out in the woods. What follows is the only real scary scene in the film, where the unsuspecting soldiers are subjected to a nightmarish sequence that is the climax of the entire film. While this scene is great, it doesn’t do enough to make up for the rest of the movie. For a film that debuted at Frightfest, London’s horror film festival, it’s sorely lacking in scares. Besides the aforementioned hallucinogenic scene, the most this movie can do is create a feeling of unease you might as well get with any other war movie. The fact that “Burial” is billed as a horror movie seems misleading at best.
When the hallucinogenic imagery is removed in the later fight scenes, the film’s lack of dynamic choreography and directing comes to the fore. The gunfight scenes consist of characters hiding behind an upturned wall or bench and occasionally sticking their heads out for a few shots. Some unimportant and nameless German characters will die and the rest will escape to become cannon fodder in the next shootout scene.
Another major drawback The faces of “Burial” is that its writing falls short of what it tries to be, as the characters tend to feel underdeveloped and cliched at times. Brana and his troops fall too easily into predictable tropes, and many of them feel forgettable by the time the credits roll. Brana’s most trusted comrade, Tor (Barry Ward), feels less like a real person and more like a successful action hero after ignoring multiple stab wounds without medical attention. Ilyasov (Dan Renton Skinner) is a comedic, slimy coward who exists only to make a statement about how soldiers take advantage of civilians during the chaos of war. These themes are admirable, but are not applied to the film with tact or subtlety.
German partisans harassing Brana and his men over Hitler’s corpse is meant to be a commentary on how neo-fascist movements attempt to control narratives. It’s a good guideline, but it’s not backed up by memorable settings or a stellar cast of characters. It’s clear that a lot of love and talent has gone into “Burial”, but it doesn’t excel enough in the areas it needs to put it on par with other great war movies of the past.