There’s a moment in writer-director Ben Parker’s Burial where a naïve Soviet soldier in 1945 is told their unit is liable to be attacked by werewolves and he gets joshed for thinking his comrades mean real lycanthropes – rather than diehard Nazi holdouts hiding in Polish woods and planning for the Fourth Reich (as seen in Sam Fuller’s Verboten! and the recent Werewolf). Evidently, the Nazis picked the name because it sounded scary – the werewolf style, including furs and horn-hats, is slightly echoed by the recent MAGA shaman, which is horribly appropriate. We do get some hallucinatory sequences as folks hopped up on Nazi amphetamines – which feature also in Deep Fear this FrightFest – imagine real werewolves or monsters who turn out to be plain old fascists out of 1940s war movies.
In a frame story set in 1989, a neo-Nazi (David Alexander) invades the UK home of exile Brana Vasilyeva (Harriet Walter) to worm conspiracy theory-supporting factoids out of her … she drugs him and treats him and us to an extended flashback set in the final days of WWII as a small detachment of Russians convey a coffin containing Hitler’s corpse back to Stalin so he can gloat while Nazis want to get it back so the fuhrer can disappear mysteriously to serve the cause rather than just be a dead loser. By night, the coffin has to be buried. Along the road, the argumentative gang – young Brana (Charlotte Vega) is stuck with incompetent, brutal, wet or unlucky men as colleagues – lose chain of command and their truck … and in Poland, the Russians are (correctly) perceived by locals as simply another invading force of rapist thugs rather than liberators. Only ‘Tor’ (Barry Ward) has supersoldier potential, and he keeps getting shot, stabbed, bludgeoned and battered. Eventually, the Russians rope in a Pole (Tom Felton) to help with the mission – and it winds up with the siege of an isolated farmhouse, a gruesome autopsy, and a firefight.
Parker made The Chamber, another military footnote drama, and has a knack for turning up the pressure, though the premise of Burial is handled in a slightly disappointing, prosaic manner. It’s credible, but a bit on the drab side. Walter and Vega are splendid in matched performances. Maybe it could have done with real werewolves, though.