These days some of the best genre movies are found on VOD/ Direct-to-DVD. While your local Cineplex carries an endless stream of focus-group friendly, big budget spectacles, the home video market has been quietly churning out low budget horror and action movies that take chances and give fans the genre thrills they demand. One of the best examples of these impressive Direct-to-DVD movies was Steve Barker's 2008 film Outpost.
Outpost followed a group of present day mercenaries, lead by Ray Stevenson (Rome, Punisher: War Zone), hired to protect a scientist as he searched an abandoned underground Nazi outpost looking for a mysterious German machine. What seems like a simple mission turns into an all out fight for survival when the mercenaries are forced to fight off undead Nazi soldiers, reanimated by the mysterious machine, lurking in the shadows of the outpost (think Alien meets Wolfenstein 3D).
Outpost was a hit with genre fans and last week its sequel, Outpost: Black Sun, was released on VOD, Blu-ray, and DVD. In Black Sun a woman, Catherine Steadman (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), hunting the last remaining Nazi war criminals finds herself caught in the middle of a secret, and bloody, NATO battle to destroy the mysterious Nazi machine and its growing army of undead Nazi soldiers. This week we had an opportunity to quickly speak with director Steve Barker about the challenges of making a sequel.
Fans of the original movie will immediately note the larger scale, deeper narrative, and an emphasis on action in the sequel. Steve said this all came from a place of not wanting to simply make the same movie over again. Originally Barker had no plans for a sequel. "If I'd actually intended on doing a sequel I wouldn't have written myself into a corner and killed everyone in the first movie" he said with a laugh.
Steve was working on another project when he was approached to do the sequel. "I wasn't really sure I'd be any good at it to be honest (but) when I started thinking about it seriously, I realized there was a chance to do something completely different. With independent film you're in a potential scenario where whatever movie you make could be the last movie you make and I didn't want to ever look back and think ‘I made two movies and they were both exactly the same'".
Given the high body count and intimate, location specific story in the first film, building off the world established in Outpost wasn't easy. After re-watching the first film the director found the seed of inspiration in an unlikely place. "The main villain (in Black Sun) is based on an extra in the first movie. He was a guy that, on the day, we gave him a lab coat and said ‘you're the dude who invented the machine (that reanimates the Nazi soldiers)'. When we were re-watching it we spotted him and went ‘we could build a whole movie around him!" Btw, if by any chance you are, or know that extra from the first film and are wondering why you weren't re-cast in that role; Barker said due to the tight production schedule on the first movie they never had a proper list of extras names so they regrettably weren't able to track you down.
As the story came together, Steve was keen to navigate the sequel with a female protagonist (the first film's cast was all male) and address things people didn't like about the first movie. "There were absolutely no women in the first film. (During) one of the first discussions with me and the producer in a pub we both agreed on a female lead mainly because it would completely force us to look at everything differently." Another change came in the treatment of the undead Nazis from the first film. Some people didn't respond to their stoic, monolithic behavior. "I pretty much got a note from the start that they got to be much more of the running about, 28 Days Later, rather than the Romero type. That by its very nature lent us more toward action. In doing so it meant that tonally (it was going to be) a slightly different movie because I think a thing that runs after you isn't as scary as a thing that doesn't have to." Barker was up to the change partially because he "didn't how many ways I could make scary sequences in corridors anymore".
Fans of Outpost and Outpost: Black Sun will be pleased to know there is already a prequel in post-production but it came about so fast that Barker wasn't directly involved. "The great thing about that is I'm really looking forward to seeing one of these as a viewer as opposed to what I normally do which is sit and sweat my way through them going ‘oh you should have done that better, oh you f—ked that up so badly'. Now I can relax and sit back and watch it."
Outpost: Black Sun is available now on VOD, Blu-ray, and DVD.