The Second Weird War
The Second Weird War
War is many things. Few can dispute that “horror” is one of them.
The horror of death, the horror of loss, the horror of the inhumanity it enables. War is horror enough without adding fictional horror, yet some creators have seen it as a backdrop for just such horrible stories.
Indeed, World War II itself had a number of connections to the paranormal, to the occult, and to the just pure strange which would seem to be the starting point of such re-imaginings.
Some of the Nazi leaders had an obsession with the occult — Himmler was dabbling in all sort of occult powers within the SS! The ideology of the Nazis had some crossover within the infamous Thule Society, a post WW1 occult and nationalist group. The Nazis also sponsored archaeological expeditions aimed at proving their odd ideas about ‘the German race’.
On the Allied side there is the strange case of Helen Duncan, a Scottish medium who has the dubious honour of being the last person imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735. Her arrest came from a seance she conducted where it was alleged she revealed that the HMS Barham had been sunk — a classified snippet of information at that time.
With that background in mind, in this article I’ll examine some selected examples where WW2 has become a canvas for the painting on of a supernatural terror onto the real horror of war…
(Please note: there will be spoilers ahead!)
The most notable of “Weird War Two” fiction. This classic 1981 film sees Indiana Jones being recruited by US Army Intelligence to try and counter a Nazi expedition to find the legendary Ark of the Covenant — the gold-covered wooden chest used to hold the tablets containing the ten commandments, touched by the hand of God. The Nazis believe that whichever army carries the Ark into battle will become invincible, and so they will stop at nothing to possess it.
The story follows the hero Indiana Jones as he works with Allied secret agents to find this mythical artifact before the Nazis. As the film progresses it becomes apparent that not only is the Ark of the Covenant not just a myth, but that there are strange forces at large that humanity dabbles in at their peril.
Originally launched in 2012, this pen-and-paper roleplaying game setting posits that Nazi archaeological expeditions did indeed find something buried deep under the earth — something powerful than the Nazis themselves: the slumbering god Cthulhu and its ilk. Plundering this lost alien technology that the Mythos races left behind from when they had ruled the earth many millennia ago, the Nazis set about turning it into terrifying weapons of war with which to annihilate the Allies once and for all. However, the Allies get wind of these lost mythical races and found a dedicated group of agents, soldiers, and adventurers to expose and stop these plans. So begins the Secret War, fought in the shadows of the main conflict for the very survival of humanity. Fans have shown a growing appetite for this alternative take on WW2, as we are currently turning it into a video game, Achtung! Cthulhu Tactics.
Originally a series of comics, then two films, video games, and more! Created by Mike Mignola, Hellboy was originally summoned to earth as a demonic child by a Nazi secret society as part of Project Ragna Rok, to use their occult powers to turn the tide of the war.
However, he is rescued from their plans by Allied forces, led by Professor Bruttenholm. The professor adopts the devil-like young creature, sensing that he is not the evil he appears to be. Nicknamed Hellboy, he grows up to be a key figure in a global organization aimed to find and stop such occult intrusions — the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD).
While Hellboy’s origins are a “Weird War Two” story, much of his adventures are set in contemporary times, and the Nazi occultists have survived the war to continue the conflict.
An odd and interesting film from 1983 based on the novel of the same name. Notable in being an early film by acclaimed director Michael Mann (Heat, The Kingdom) and starring a young Ian McKellen (X-Men, Lord of the Rings) the film is about the titular citadel in Romania that houses the trapped spirit of a demonic entity known as Radu Molasar.
Occupied by German soldiers, the lost building is drawn into the ongoing war. This strange bastion has silver-looking icons in the walls of the inner keep, which are damaged by two soldiers seeking loot. This partially releases Molasar, who sets about engineering his full release. The film is a strange mix of the military and the mythical, has a few clever ideas and sequences, and its sheer oddness means it makes this list.
This 2008 action-horror is not set during WW2 but in contemporary times. A mysterious businessman assembles a party of mercenaries to escort him into no-man’s land in Eastern Europe where a civil war rumbles on. The target of their excursion is a former WW2 Nazi research bunker, the Outpost of the Tile, to find rumoured lost Nazi super-technology.
Trapped underground while the current war rages on around them, the party discovers that the Nazi experiments were partially successful in creating new “wonder weapons” and the results are even now still active as their intrusion has awoken something inhuman and deadly.
An atmospheric film that skillfully weaves the experimental Nazi occult-tech tropes into a tale of horror and death. The film spawned two sequels.
A comicbook from 2000AD, it tells its story, via lost diary entries, of a young German soldier fighting in WW2.
He discovers that he is fighting alongside a unit of elite Romanian soldiers who fight only at night, who seem to be impervious to bullets, and are able to make seemingly impossible kills. He soon discovers their terrible secret: hailing from the land of Dracula, the unit of Romanian soldiers are in fact vampires! Struggling to reconcile this fact, the full horror becomes apparent when Romania switches sides to join the allies — now not only are there vampires fighting in a very modern war, but they are suddenly on the wrong side! A great comic story weaving folklore, horror, and war.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick blitzkrieg though some of my favorite “Weird War Two” creations — have you seen these? Did you like them? Did I miss any that should have made the list? Let us know!