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Friday, August 12, 2011

Filmed in Hermann, Mo. Horror Movie 'Ratline' Released on DVD

RATLINE – The DVD Review

August 12, 2011
by Tom Stockman

Drug dealers, serial killers, Satan worshippers and immortal Nazis are some of the ingredients of the bloody stew that is RATLINE, a tough, well-made shocker from St. Louis-based regional filmmaker Eric Stanze. RATLINE is not a “boo!” sort of horror flick. It’s not about stalkers in dark corners or monsters under the bed. It’s about the evil that men often do, if not necessarily in real life, then certainly within really nasty horror flicks like RATLINE. It;s an angry, humorless film filled with sex and gore, but writer/director Stanze is not one of these independent filmmakers who;s simply in love with his own nihilism. He’s working from his own smart script that attempts to say something important about the murderous energies at loose in society. RATLINE is not without flaws, but it’s an aggressively low budget piece of horror weirdness that defies expectations and is remarkably accomplished.

A ratline is a wartime term describing a system of escape routes for Nazis and RATLINE takes a long time getting to that definition. The film opens with the aftermath of a drug deal gone sour with bad blonde sisters Crystal and Kim (Emily Haack and Alex Del Monacco ) on the run from a pile of corpses with a pile of cash. They hide out in in Hermann, Missouri where they are taken in by their innocent, naive friend Penny (Sarah Wofford). A parallel plot briefly seems to follow a Satan-worshipping couple on the prowl for a human sacrifice. The two abduct a mysterious drifter named Frank (Jason Christ) who quickly and bloodily dispatches the pair in a scene featuring the first of the film;s several decapitations. Frank arrives in Hermann where he confronts Penny’s uncle about a Nazi flag in the old man’s possession that has superhuman powers. It turns out Frank is actually a Nazi villain who has stopped aging and is looking to reactivate an evil experiment left over from the waning days of the Third Reich.

RATLINE is a powerful narrative, told so directly and strongly that an audience mostly in the mood for a good old exploitation film may be rocked back on its psychic heels. It begins with a bang then lets the story and the mystery build at a deliberate pace while the direction never lets us out from under real dramatic tension. It takes its time getting to where it needs to go but Stanze has a good ear for dialogue and nuance. And there is evil in this movie. RATLINE makes great location work in the Missouri town of Hermann. It’s a charming and vibrant historic town, where tourists descend on its wineries, especially in the Fall (when it appears that RATLINE was shot there), but Stanze makes it look ruinous and malevolent. Especially effective is his use of an enormous background graveyard. The location doesn’t play into the plot but it shades the tranquil burg as a creepy corner of the earth, a metaphor for the surface and buried lives of the town. Stanze smartly bypasses his low budget by illustrating the Nazi back story in the form of an unearthed 16mm ‘educational’ film and it’s in this extended sequence that RATLINE best transcends its low budget. The scratchy, splicy B&W footage of gruesome experiments, atrocities and magic is as horrifying as the deepest level of hell and is reminiscent of the similarly demented Nazi flashback sequence in Jack Curtis’ 1964 cult item THE FLESH EATERS.


RATLINE  (trailer)


Ratline, directed by Eric Stanze (Deadwood Park, Scrapbook) and written by Stanze and Jason Christ, stars Emily Haack (Scrapbook, Savage Harvest 2: October Blood), Jason Christ (Deadwood Park, The Undertow), Sarah Swofford (Sugar Creek), Amanda Pemberton (alt-model “Apnea”), Alex Del Monacco (Playboy video and pin-up model), and DJ Vivona (Ice from the Sun, China White Serpentine). The film is produced by Jeremy Wallace, Eric Stanze, Jason Christ, and Jessie Seitz.

In a flash of blood-drenched violence, Crystal Brewer's life has taken an unexpected turn. On the run from the law for her part in a gruesome drug money heist gone wrong, she has become seduced into a seedy underworld of death and betrayal. Escaping into the night with her half-sister, Kim, Crystal seeks refuge in a small Midwestern town to make sense of her life-threatening ordeal. However, any plans for solace are soon derailed when she crosses paths with Frank Logan, a mysterious stranger with a bloody history of his own.

An ex-Nazi, who escaped battle-ravaged Europe after the war, Logan worked in the SS Paranormal Division, conducting experiments in the occult. Logan believes exposure to supernatural forces has rendered him immortal.

A diabolical plan has been set in motion to re-open the supernatural floodgate that was first explored by the SS during World War II. Crystal unwittingly becomes a key ingredient in Logan's plan.

Until now, this ex-Nazi believed that he had all the time in the world to pursue his devious agenda. Due to recent discoveries, however, he now knows that his lifespan is normal, and that his time on Earth is growing short. His was a story of evil. Now it is a story of mortality.

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