‘Dead Snow’ Review – The Unavoidable Uber-Villain
It was inevitable. It was only a matter of time until someone would venture to cash that blank check.
And although there were some precursors (most importantly in video games such as Wolfenstein and Call Of Duty: World At War) it was Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola who decided to make a film about the overdue, overkilled-villain creatures.
Wirkola’s reasoning was simple: “What is more evil than a zombie? A Nazi-zombie! We have a really strong war-history up in the north of Norway from World War Two, so it was fun to combine actual events with our own story”.
Sometimes, ingenuity and full creative freedom are what is needed to take advantage of ideas that were culturally destined to be realized in the first place.
From the beginning, Dead Snow assumes itself as a chewed and cannibalized product of many previous inspirations. The premise is about a group of young and horny people who decide to spend the holidays in a secluded and lethal cabin. We've seen this setting in hundreds of horror movies. And our characters don’t fake dementia about it. Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), the group’s “geek”, points out the similarities of the group’s trip with films like Evil Dead and Friday the 13th.
The secluded, icy mountains near the village of Øksfjord are the perfect place to develop the story. Our young adventurers seem to be doing very well in the snow, but they are completely unaware of local history and myths.
Enter the hiker (Bjørn Sundquist). Assuming his role as the bitter and enigmatic character who hates tourists but cannot fail to warn them of the dangers of the place, he explains the legend. During World War II, the Nazi occupation took control of that area.
The Einsatzgruppe, led by Standartenführer Herzog, abused and tortured the local residents for three years. With the imminent end of the war, the Nazis ransacked and looted all the village, killing anyone who resisted. But the people, with accumulated hate, staged an uprising against the Nazis. After killing many of them, they managed to force the survivors (including Herzog) to flee to the mountains, where they were presumed to have frozen to death.
And so, the fragile yet valid mythology about the Nazi Zombies in the mountains of Norway has been unveiled.
The hiker is immediately killed. Our young protagonists are now at the mercy of creatures that, according to the same Wirkola, are Nazis first, then zombies. Scary.
One by one, the gang is victimized by the Nazi-Zombies. The reason? The cabin shelters a hidden wooden chest containing much of the stolen loot. And as if they were Warwick Davis’ Leprechaun, the Nazi-Zombies hunt those who try to take even a coin of “their” treasure. This is a clever reinterpretation of the Scandinavian folk of the greedy draugr.
The pacing of Dead Snow is progressive, as well as its campy tone. It begins as a slow burn that only suggests the horror, full of cheap jump scares, but it ends in a glorious explicit splatter battle full of dark humor.
What's Your Rating For Dead Snow?
Not everything works in Dead Snow. The humor in the first half is flawed, decontextualized and shamefully forced. Above all, the dialogue and the over-the-top performances fail to hit the mark repeatedly. The film seems to take itself a little more seriously during the first 40 minutes, while its characters are already in Evil Dead mode.
But when it finally reaches the required level of madness, Dead Snow is the entertaining and grotesque zombie movie that deserves its place in the multiple zombie-movies rankings.
It’s here when Tommy Wirkola really stands out. Because where the dialogue fails, the visual cues do not. The film is full of small and hilarious visual gags, like the moment when Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen) attacks a Nazi-zombies with a hammer and a sickle, to which the monster reacts with extra resentment when seeing the Soviet Union symbol. Or when Martin (Vegar Hoel) pulls an Ash and mutilates his arm to prevent a bite from turning him into a zombie, only to be bitten in the penis seconds later (and of course, refusing to mutilate his genitals).
Wirkola does a lot with very little. With a budget of $800,000, Dead Snow has explosions, mutilations, hordes of zombies, cliff falls and even avalanches. His clever direction, as seen in the gag about spitting to know which side to dig after an icefall, demonstrates the intelligence and creativity of the director.
Dead Snow rejoices in its null responsibility of being a European film that is not traditionally artsy. The fact that the villain is called Herzog (like Werner, the renowned serious German filmmaker) seemed more like a proclamation of principles than a coincidence. Also check out Dead Snow 2, bigger, better and just plain crazy.
Title: Dead Snow
Release Year: 2009
Director(s): Tommy Wirkola
Actors: Jeppe Beck Laursen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan, a.o.
© 2019 Sam Shepards