(director/writer: Mauro Borrelli; screenwriters: Scott Svatos/Reggie Keyohara III/story by Mauro Borrelli; cinematographer: Eric Gustavo Petersen; editor: Ed Marx; music:Tao Liu; cast: Mickey Rourke(Major Johnson), Jackson Rathbone (Walsh), Robert Knepper (Sergeant Brewer), Alex Mills (Friar), Anna Paliga (Stria), Josh Burdett (Captain Rice), Ieva Seglina (Cryptologist), Lou Stassen (Hexe), Timo Willman (Lt. Hertz), Ben McKeown (Freeman), Matt Mella (Korsky), Lorenzo de Moor (Gardner), Dainus Grubb (Simms), Hervé Edouard (Carboni), Christian Hunter (Olin), Elliot Wooster (Taft),  Polina Pushkareva Nioly (Radio Operator), Fredrik Wagner (Rucker); Runtime: 93; MPAA Rating: R; producers; Future the Prince, Max Pavlov, Igor Pronin, Svetlana Punte, Yu-Fai Suen, Yulia Zayceva: Saban Films; 2022)

“An absurd and predictable schlock B-movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The visual effects maven Mauro Borrelli (“Haunted Forest”/”The Recall”) directs this low-budget mash-up of a horror thriller and a war drama with results that are more bad than good. From his own story, Borrelli  co-writes the screenplay with Scott Svatos and Reggie Keyohara III. It was shot in Latvia.

US military cargo plane, carrying top-secret material, in 1945, during World War II, crashes behind enemy lines in the German Black Forest because a flock of black birds got into its engines. Upon hearing about the crash, the eye patch, black leather wearing, long-haired grizzled roguish Major Johnson (Mickey Rourke) orders an elite rescue squad of 12 to bring back the top-secret material on the plane. The mission is led by the grizzled vet Sergeant Brewer (Robert Knepper). Johnson then adds a 13th party, the surveyor Walsh (Jackson Rathbone), to the mission.

When the parachuted rescuers get close to the crash site they discover Nazi soldiers hanging from the trees and a lone survivor who is
catatonic. There suddenly appears a mysterious woman, a witch enchantress, one of many CGI witches surrounding what’s called the Tree of Life, which is kept alive by drinking the blood of soldiers. The witches can shape-shift into seductive women or crows (as when they brought the plane down), and exercise strange supernatural powers– like making the soldiers walk around in a circle in this cursed forest and picking them off one by one as the men go insane. Meanwhile the surveyor tries to locate the Tree of Life so that the Nazis don’t get it and unlock their secrets to eternal life.

Fed up with all this nonsense, Major Johnson shows up at the climax in the forest with a blazing machine gun and eliminates the problem.

It’s an absurd and predictable schlock B-movie, with most unlikable characters as leads (except for the surveyor, who was a heart-throb in Twilight), poor pacing, and a story that’s both unbelievable and dumb.

REVIEWED ON 2/28/2022  GRADE:  C-