By Special request for Stuart 🙂
The great thing about Dead Snow is that it follows the formula necessary for such productions and sticks to it. Possibly one of the most influential Nazi zombie snow movies ever made. You get the gist. When making a movie in a genre that has been hackneyed to death (sorry!) , as you may know, there is a formula for these movies – an abandoned cottage , or dark basement/castle or some other deserted/creepy place. A handful of students ranging from the sporty to nerd, male and female – you’ve seen the movie, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, in this case we got a group of Norwegian students, up in the mountains, miles away from civilisation and nothing there for them except their cabin. Plans all made for a busy weekend of “studying”. I’m not mentioning what happened in the outhouse, you’ll have to watch for yourselves.
The film was directed and written by Tommy Wirkola (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, 2013) he also gave himself a cameo role as one of the dying zombies. Our seven heroes are all settled when they have a night visitor, who has a simple warning for them “there’s an evil presence here”. The first thing you notice when watching is that there’s not much of an original thought here, but it is done well. There’s even a reference to “Friday the 13th”. They learn of the Nazi past and the missing soldiers believed to have frozen on the mountains. Not long after, we get introduced to our resurrecting zombies, disturbed by the students. In the course of this all the usual happens, they split up, one has to amputate his own arm and so on.
The ensuing zombie chase to kill our Norwegian friends provides us with all the glorious blood splattering, intestine spewing gore expected of such a movie. But it is done so well… There are a few directors who have managed to perfect this sub-genre (zombie Horror movies), Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead 1981) and George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, 1968) are the obvious examples. Wirkola knew what he wanted and went for it.
The plot is as it is – holidaying teenagers alone in a cabin discover an evil nasty (in this case Nazi Zombies) and then spend the best part of 90 minutes largely failing to escape them, indeed not only failing to escape but also perhaps failing to survive. There are of course some glaring plot holes, but these are made up for by the one of the students who actually knows his movie trivia and drops in the appropriate one liner when needed, a good writing move.
It should be pointed out that these are no ordinary zombies, they are Nazi zombies and as such are a determined bunch (either that or hungry), chasing victims up trees (forcing the victim up the tree), of course in her case if she had not being wearing a bright red jacket in snow, or climbed up the only tree with a crow’s nest – the trouble with disturbing crows is that they make noise, al lot of it. Telling them to sush is not very productive or helpful when there is a zombie just below you. On the bright side, when falling off a cliff, their intestines are more than strong enough to catch and hold on to (take note in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation).
You will note that I’m not listing off the world famous Norwegian movie stars who played the hapless victims, being honest, they were fodder, for script and zombies. Some people have damned this movie as derivative and unoriginal, sure, but was it meant to be new and original? I will however credit Ørjan Gamst as Colonel Herzog (who will be in the sequel). This movie is not about Shakespearian monologues, or slow sweeping vistas Ang Lee would be proud of. No the camera work is rationed, each second of screen time is there for a reason, ala Guilermo del Toro. I’m going to stop on this point right now. Well just adding that in fairness this movie was not done on a huge Hollywood budget, but managed to use its finances well and produce a well-crafted offering. Just because a movie is not big-budget doesn’t mean it has to look cheap and dated.
This movie works quite simply because it is a comedy, designed to put a smile on our faces and not take itself too seriously. That said I’ve developed serious bouts of the giggles at other horror flicks but often because they were so poorly produced, regardless of budget, they were always going to be bad. What makes this movie actually watchable is that it was technically made well, all things considered.
The plot is thinner than the ice they are on and like most things in the frozen Norwegian mountains, needs time to warm up, but after about the first 15 minutes things get lively with the appearance of the zombie Nazis. Leave your brain in the bedroom, and just sit back and enjoy. Yes, it is derivative; no, it is not very original; but maybe you’ll enjoy it.
There’s not much more you can say about students being chased around a deserted mountain by zombies. Just as Cabin Fever worked because of its satirical approach, this works because of a similar approach, but no so much satire as light-hearted homage to those movies which went before it.
Three stars – a respectable score, especially given the starting point.