282 – The Dead Snow Saga

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It’s October, and October is horror month, but it’s already the 9th and all I’ve seen is Annabelle. Not an auspicious start. I do have a few things in the works for the rest of the month that ought to redeem it a little. The first is tonight’s Cinefamily double feature presentation of 2009’s Norweigan Nazi-Zombie film, Dead Snow, and it’s brand new sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead.

“Nazi Zombies.” That’s the entire hook for Dead Snow, but it was enough for viewers at the time, as the film became a bit of a cult hit, even propelling it’s co-writer/director, Tommy Wirkola, into a studio gig known to the public as Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. That film did not do so well, but it did drive Wirkola back to the prejudiced living dead that he knows so well.

The loose plot of Dead Snow involves eight friends in their 20’s trekking up to an isolated mountain cabin for a weekend of debauchery. Their fun is cut short by a horde of (you guessed it) Nazi Zombies, looking to take back some good that was stolen from them (you know, after they stole it during World War II). Blood and body parts begin flying, and it’s not long before the remaining campers, including queasy medical student Martin (Vegar Hoel), take a stand for their survival.

Dead Snow is not a very good movie. Let’s get it out there right away. There is very little to recommend it in the first 30 minutes, as even it’s meta-awareness does nothing to set it apart from any other horror movie. But once the action really gets moving and the living (for now) characters start to fight back, the movie takes a turn. If a horror movie isn’t actually going to be scary, the next best thing is that it be fun – and the second half of Dead Snow is very fun. The makeup and special effects are laughable at times, but that contributes to the tone immensely. The filmmakers were rather untest at the time, so I cannot assume that the rote first half was done intentionally, but that boring beginning does provide excellent contrast once things get good.

So then the question becomes how to handle a sequel. Wirkola and company figure it out almost immediately, though, because Dead Snow 2 practically starts with the light-hearted unintentional murders of several people (including a 12-year-old) and just gets crazier from there. Martin survived his experience on the mountain, but now he finds that the (that’s right) Nazi Zombies, led by Standartenführer Herzog (Orjan Gamst), have designs on wiping out a Norweigan town, the World War II-era plan they died trying to execute. Martin enlists the aid of a crew of American zombie experts (including Martin Starr) to fight back the invasion. Hopefully it’s not too late to stop this smart brand of zombie (or smombie) from taking over completely, if Martin can only get his newly transplanted zombie arm under control.

Wirkola and co-writer Stig Frode Henriksen (who also appears in both films) go for it here. There’s no pretense or attempt to evoke emotion in Dead Snow 2, and the movie benefits from that move. Again, this is not a good movie – nothing that happens story-wise really makes sense and the movie shifts to being performed exclusively in English with zero justification – but this time I believe it is intentional. This is the Evil Dead 2 to Dead Snow‘s The Evil Dead, going so far as to turn Martin into a slightly more demented version of Bruce Campbell’s Ash.

If the barometer for a good horror movie involves lots of fun, well Dead Snow 2 has got it in droves. Reviews for the sequel weren’t looking great, so I was a little worried, but I guess I saw a more morbidly satisfying film than the “real” critics. I’m a man of the people, and I know what the people want. And what the people want is multiple child murders played for laughs. Well, people, you’re in luck.

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