Director: Eric Stanze
Cast: Emily Haack, Jason Christ, Alex Del Monacco, Sarah Swofford, Amanda Pemberton, Ryan Bax, Joseph R. Engel, DJ Vivona
Disk Extras: Commentary track by director Eric Stanze / Commentary track by actress Emily Haack, actor Jason Christ, and director Eric Stanze / Hour-long documentary: CROSSING THE LINE: The Making Of RATLINE / Gag reel / Deleted scenes / Preview trailers
A “ratline” refers to escape routes used by Nazis after the end of World War II as they fled Europe. What does that have to do with any sort of horror or exploitation film? Well, in the mind of writer/director Eric Stanze it has a lot to do with both. Stanze, probably known to most horror fans for his extremely graphic and controversial 2000 film Scrapbook, took a story about the Nazi SS Paranormal Division or the “Ahnenerbe” and added a slasher-type twist to it. It’s a brilliant idea that marries exploitation, horror and suspense into a truly sick union.
Frank Logan, the fake name used by a former Nazi officer in charge of investigating the supernatural and dark magic for der Führer, is alive in present day and hasn’t aged since the 1940s due to the magic. He is in search of a particular Swastika that he and his villainous cohorts put the hoodoo on back in the day and it is now a source of great power. While looking for the flag, he tracks down a small town mayor and son of one of his former partners, who he believes has the magical totem. In that same town is a family member who he hopes to draft into his diabolical plans.
There is a lot more to the plot but I don’t want to spoil too much. Lots of twists, turns and gore later, you are left wanting more of the story. Ratline is a stark, unflinching and gory film that plays the potentially cheesy story with a mean-ass straight face. The look and feel of the movie is almost on par with those uncomfortably graphic art-house movies that most of us know and love. Stanze shows things that make most filmmakers flinch, like full nudity of men and women shown in a way that makes you want to turn your head because it seems like you really shouldn’t be seeing it. I love his use of actors and actresses who aren’t afraid to get down and dirty.
The bad guy “Frank”, played by Jason Christ who also co-wrote the screenplay, is a menacing, maniacal killer who just oozes evil and he has a fucking epic beard. Emily Haack who plays “Crystal” is a fearless actress who can go from violent badass to helpless victim to soft, sexual plaything in just one scene. But my favorite actress/actor of the entire movie is the quiet, cute yet somehow seductively sultry Sarah Swofford (“Penny”), now my new horror crush, who steals every scene she is in. Just try to not look into her big, dark eyes when she’s on screen! All of the actors played their parts with surprising skill, something you don’t always see in low-budget horror, especially the really hardcore stuff.
After seeing Ratline, I am going to seek out Eric Stanze and Wicked Pixel Cinema’s other films because if they are anything like this, they have a fan forever.