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‘Burial’ review: Atmospheric World War II film buries the lead

The man in the box.

World War II is an underused setting for horror. The stories that are set in that time tend to focus on the occult. Burial takes place in 1945 after the fall of Berlin. A group of Russian soldiers are tasked to transport a mysterious package to Stalin. Along the way they encounter German soldiers who have their own ideas about the delivery. 

Burial ruins one of its biggest surprises before the film even begins. The synopsis blithely states the group have been tasked to deliver the remains of Hitler. For those who did not read the movie’s log line, it is casually stated in a conversation about ten minutes into the film. It then becomes a little more than a prop until taking center stage about an hour later. 

This actually would not be that big of a deal since it is such a unique story. There are not many plots about two opposing factors fighting over Hitler’s dead body, after all. The issue in Burial is the mystery that surrounds the situation. The soldiers wonder why their cargo has to be buried every night. This gives a feeling of the audience being a step ahead of the script. 

It is not unheard of for people watching horror movies to know more than the cast, but where the film crosses the line is in its reveal of what it is in crate. The camerawork and reactions from the characters in the room do a great job of building suspense. The problem is that suspense hinges on not knowing what is in the box. The end result is a potentially great scene feeling flat. 

At this point, the real action in Burial kicks in as Germans and Russians fight over the corpse of Hitler. The firefights are exciting and though there is little character development, some of them still manage to leave an impression. The ending is a little too shocking for its own good, but it will certainly catch anyone watching off guard. 

Writer-director Ben Parker masterfully oscillates between a horrors of war story and straight up horror. Up until the reveal, Burial is constantly playing with audience expectations. That the psychological horror aspects end up being an ends to a mean does not detract from some great imagery. The atmosphere is reminiscent of moody genre fare. 

The more emotional aspects do not have the same gravity. There are some meaningful monologues, but they do not have a lasting impact. Ultimately, the story about groups battling over what to do with Hitler’s remains is interesting enough. Burial just tries to do  more than is necessary.

Burial opens in select theaters and On Demand September 2

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