From the early 1970s to the mid-1980s DC Comics published Weird War Tales which, as the title infers, added supernatural threats to the danger of combat. WarHunt feels like director Mauro Borrelli (The Recall, The Ghostmaker) and co-writers Reggie Keyohara III (The Recall, The Cargo) and Scott Svatos (The Ghostmaker) sat down with a stack of them for inspiration when they came up with this tale of World War II GIs behind Nazi lines fighting a coven of witches.
In the film’s opening scenes a military transport flying over the Black Forest is attacked and brought down by crows who prove that a group of them isn’t called a murder for nothing. Major Johnson (Mickey Rourke, The Commando, Once Upon a Time in Mexico) sends Sgt. Brewer (Robert Knepper, Hard Target 2, The Moderator) and his men to find the wreckage of the plane and retrieve its top-secret cargo before the Germans do. He also sends Walsh (Jackson Rathbone, Twilight, The Last Ship), an intelligence officer along with them despite Brewer’s disapproval.
While Johnson stays back at camp doing some odd research, Brewster and his men quickly make a grim discovery. German soldiers, shot execution-style, drained of their blood and hung upside down. One of the few survivors claims it was the work of witches.
The first thing about WarHunt that caught my attention was Rourke’s character. Dressed not in a uniform but in leather and sporting an eye patch and cigar he’s obviously meant to make us think of one of Marvel’s famous WWII vets, Nick Fury. It’s an amusing touch and Rourke actually seems to be putting some effort into playing the role.
Unlike entirely too many low to mid-budget films, WarHunt doesn’t have long spells of anything but dialogue. While its budget doesn’t allow for major setpieces, it does keep throwing either small-scale action scenes or some kind of weird activity at the audience. As a result, I stayed interested as the film gradually raises its WTF factor.
Of course, as all of this is happening Walsh and Brewster keep butting heads over whether or not something supernatural is going on. Even after they’re fired on by a man who’s been sewn up after having his internal organs removed and replaced with crow feathers, Brewster insists here’s a rational explanation. Meanwhile back at the base, Major Johnson’s research is giving us an indication of just how wrong Brewster is.
Despite the fact that WarHunt is pure pulp nonsense the cast all resist the urge to go into camp mode and play it straight. Granted, most of the squad is simply there to react to what’s going on and die when needed. But the supporting cast, such as Fredrik Wagner (The Rose in the Flame, White Trash) as Rucker, do their best to keep the film from slipping into the ridiculous. And for the most part, they do, despite cliches like food turning into maggots and moments that are fairly hard not to laugh at. WarHunt hangs together quite well and delivers more entertainment than I expected through the first hour.
Unfortunately, going into the last act WarHunt suffers from several scenes that are so dark it’s almost impossible to tell what’s going on. And that darkness is a problem that persists through the showdown in the witches’ lair. It doesn’t hurt the film too much, but it is frustrating, especially as there’s so much going on. The script even gets Rourke out from behind his desk and lets him get in on the heroics.
Despite that, if you don’t expect a serious horror film, WarHunt is a fun way to kill some time. It’s a fast-paced ride made for watching with beer and pizza. Which after all the crap I’ve seen lately was just what I needed.