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Halloween Movie Review #4: Dead Snow

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aka Død snø

If you’re gonna make a zombie flick nowadays, you’d better find a novel twist to rise above the crowded landscape.

In this case, the landscape is snow capped mountains and the twist is quite literally an undead army. In an interview, Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola said:

“When we were about to sit down and write the actual script, we started thinking, ‘What is more evil than a zombie’? A Nazi-zombie! … I like to think of them as Nazi zombies. Nazis first, then zombies.”

Gotta love that spirit.

So we have three hundred or so Nazi soldiers who were chased into the mountains at the end of WWII so they could come back to life to eviscerate seven vacationing skiers.

We don’t know how they ended up as zombies or why some old dude who knows all about it continues to camp in the mountains alone. But dressed in their uniforms and sporting weapons, able to run, strategize and even climb trees, it’s clear they didn’t leave their military training at death’s door. This is a fan-boy’s zombie film, with ruthless unstoppable killers, gore that’s way, WAY over the top, and tongue planted firmly in cheek – before both tongue and cheek are ripped out and head split open. Basically an Evil Dead for the 21st century.

Dead Snow suffers the same weakness of all Teenagers-In-Peril-In-A-Cabin movies: There’s very little time to get to know or care about any of the characters before the monsters, having checked their watches, decide they’ve waited long enough.

But of course the filmmakers have no interest in your emotional bonds to the protagonists. We get the “Driving to the Cabin” scene, the “Outdoor Sports” montage, the “Getting Drunk and Playing Twister” sequence, and the “Old Man Shows Up and Kills the Mood With Creepy Story” bit. Then the two most cliche characters have sex and – whaddya know – from that point on, it’s body-splittin’ time.

I counted at least five shot-for-shot homages to Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead and Peter Jackson’s Dead Alive, so you know their heart is in the right place – which is on the ground, with bite marks in it, stepped on then kicked across the snow like a football. Much like the latter film, all you will do after a while is laugh at the ridiculousness of this grand spectacle and marvel at the creativity of the makeup effects. I’ve watched more horror films than most, but never have I seen intestines featured so prominently in a motion picture. They get pulled out, caught on trees, tripped over and even used as climbing rope. It’s no wonder we keep them inside.

One of my favorite scenes involved a character – who cares which one? – struggling painfully to suture his gushing carotid artery with fishing line for a good minute or two before finally giving in to wrapping his neck with duct tape.

Two more Todd Points™ for horror that takes place in broad daylight. It doesn’t seem to help their situation anyway, as it turns out that wide open fields of bright snow are just as perilous as the deep dark woods. Kids really need to find safer places to vacation.

If you like your zombie movies over-the-top with a healthy dose of humor – but not that smarmy, Shaun of the Dead-style jokiness – you’ll probably have a ball with this one. I sure did. The rest of you will probably want to play inside and let us lunatics have our fun in the snow.

Now that you’ve seen the film…

**** SPOILER ALERT *** 

Did you see that part where the dude is stumbling through the forest, realizes something is holding him back, then turns around to see his intestines are tangled around a tree branch? And that time when the dude is hanging off a cliff by that zombie’s entrails? Or how about that bit when the five zombies stab the guy at once, then pick him up and pull him apart into five pieces? Only relentless military training can produce such flawless choreography. Remember: Nazis first, zombies second.

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