Valeri Milev’s debut feature Re-Kill (2012) was all set for a UK release as part of the After Dark label, but for some reason got pulled at the last minute. It’s a shame as it was quite a lauded little picture that featured genre icon Bruce Payne. Nevertheless Milev’s second feature HAS been released on our shores and despite the absence of any recognisable faces in the cast, the healthy budget ($6million) certainly offered this writer an amount of encouragement as to its potential quality.
We open with archive footage of Stalingrad which then blends into the movie and it must be said some quite vivid and well shot war footage. A battalion find themselves under siege and facing certain death within the confines of a ruined town. Fast forward to the present day, and freshly discovered is the war diary of one of the survivors of this raid, a soldier who witnessed the production and effects of a nerve gas created by Stalin’s henchmen. The soldier recorded what he saw in his diary, but committed suicide soon after his experience. Now the diary represents the only evidence that this gas ever existed and it has come to light that it may well be being reproduced in Bulgaria.
Paul Logan plays John McGahey, a US Special Forces agent who is charged with going to Eastern Europe to track down the source of the gas. His first stop is to visit NATO doctor Anna Bennett (Manal El-Feitury) who compiled the explosive report that the authorities were very keen to hide. She tells him that she had a patient admitted who was pronounced dead, but soon after he was seen to come back to life. It was covered up by the hierarchy, but when she complained that the report wasn’t factually correct, Anna found herself suspended and thus felt compelled to act as whistle blower.
As Logan begins his work into finding the substance and working out who exactly is behind its creation, the city is thrown into chaos by a massive explosion with the gas being released and before long the residents find themselves exposed and Anna finds herself separated from her daughter. With hordes of ravenous mutants scavenging around the concrete infested city, survival is hard – but with Special Agent John McGahey on the scene our mother and daughter may soon be reunited.
Code Red brings little originality to the horror genre, although it does make for an entertaining 90 minutes. As with most East European set horror, the acting from the locals can be a little jarring at times, but the bleak Bulgarian panelák setting offers a great deal. The make-up for the gas affected deformities is very impressive with a litany of grossly altered citizens patrolling the town, and the films ‘18’ certificate is certainly earned with some glorious gore to savour.
Anna and her daughter are decently fleshed out characters and the actors playing their roles fit the parts just fine. Paul Logan is given the archetypal ‘hero’ role and his IMDb profile boasts that he’s “one of the hidden jewels in the treasury of action cinema to not [yet] hit superstar status”. I’m not sure that that’s going to happen quite yet, but charged with a role like this in a functional medium budget horror movie, he does just fine. The ending for the movie is a bit of a whimper and lacks a payoff that the previous 80 minutes had spent building, but other than that it’s a movie worth a rental.