If you’ve ever seen Love Boat and wondered what it would be like if you swapped harmless romance for Nazis, ghosts and special ops marines, then Nazi Dawn might just be your ideal film.
Most films that deal with Nazis do so in a fairly regular fashion, and few (if any) glamorise the regime. This film is no different, as a team of marines are called upon to board and investigate an unresponsive cruiser out at sea, it gradually becomes clear that it has a dark past. Standard horror fare, it seems.
It’s a rather odd film to watch, as the plot seems to have gone for a stroll in the park. We’re launched into intense discussions between characters from the offset, with little to no introduction to their names, personality, or motivation. This, and the fact they’re a big team of stereotypes of the genre (from the emotionally weak, soon nude woman to the scarred survivor with a dark secret), makes it hard to sympathise once the blood-letting starts.
They arrive on the boat and plod around, swinging guns into doors, and meeting the reason for the boat’s investigation – the man who killed everyone else on board.The film makes you wonder about the director’s motivation when choosing not to veto certain scenes, especially when a bunch of US marines brutally torture and interrogate the man which seems to make them even less appealing. Soon enough they all start wandering off by themselves (go figure), so it all works out.
It’s an odd film and one I found pretty hard to stay focused on, at times. The plot seems to speed up and slow down, and tense moments of pursuit or gunplay tend to span out into ten minutes of action that feels too stretched to remain entertaining. However, one of the film’s redeeming characters come in the form of Lance Henriksen’s grizzled veteran, famous for his role as Bishop in Alien.
The rest of the actors seem to be very engaged in their roles, and this commitment serves them well, for the most part. The director seems to have been pretty free with how they move about the shot, which makes for more interesting, realistic conversations than the standard two-shot.
The plot itself, and the revelation of Nazi influences on board (bar a few corpses at the beginning laid in a certain, hauntingly familiar symbolic pattern) don’t appear until almost an hour in, and this is disappointing, as it’s this Nazi side to the horror that makes it infinitely more chilling. The best scene in the film lies in the hands of the villain, and the film ends with a wonderful twist but feels forced due to the rather confusing way in which it’s explained.
It’s a good watch for anyone who enjoys horror in a strict format, but for those seeking a dark Nazi plot rather than lots of shouting, a bit of nudity, and some questionable firefights, it may feel lacklustre as a ninety-minute commitment. But as a film that taps into Ghostbusters and the US Special Forces go, it’s tolerable.