Dead Snow

DS1

When eight students decided to spend their Easter vacation in the snowy mountains of Northern Norway, the last thing they expected to find was a group of Nazi Zombies.

How do you make zombies evil? Simple, make them Nazi zombies. Zombies on their own aren’t really evil, not any more than you can call a lion evil for eating a gazelle, or you yourself for eating a cow, a pig, or a chicken. Zombies eat people because that’s what they instinctually need to do, it’s the one thing they crave above all other things, just as bacon is to you members of the living. Until you’re ready to call that guy that just ordered a BLT evil, you can’t harp on the undead for their carnivorous tendencies, even if the meat we choose to eat has a complete vocabulary. However, you add Nazism to a zombie, and yeah, that kind of makes him evil, even if said zombie eats veggies instead of people (this does happen). Though to be honest, adding a bit of Nazi towards pretty much anything makes it evil. Grandma passing out cookies? Evil if those cookies have a swastika on them. Veterinarian taking care of a litter of puppies? Evil if he teaches those puppies to goosestep. Philanthropist donating millions towards charity? Evil if that donation comes with a forced reading of Mien Kampf. A skinhead preaching Hitler’s message on the street corner? Well yeah, I guess that one’s kind of obviously evil. The point is, adding anything Nazi to even the nicest of things immediately makes it pretty evil, and that includes zombies. So yeah, us regular zombies might not be the nicest of creatures should you happen to have a pulse, but we’re sure as hell not evil. Nazi zombies though? Yeah, just fuck those guys.

Our film begins with a girl running for her life through the snow, a run that’s cut abruptly short by the creatures chasing her, before switching over to a group of medical students heading up to a ski cabin in the mountains for some Easter vacation fun. They’re not long into their vacation when a strange man shows up in the dead of night to relate an old tale to them, a tale of Nazis that had cruelly oppressed the town below during WW2. Towards the end of the war, the Nazis had decided to grab all the town’s gold and make a run for it, but it was already far too late for the war criminals as the town had been pushed to the breaking point. They revolted and killed many of their former oppressors, chasing the rest into the very same mountains our medical students choose to spend their vacation at. Though the old man leaves them with the thought that most of those chased away had long ago frozen to death, the tale is enough for one student, Vegard, to decide to go out and find his girlfriend who was going to hike to the cabin but has yet to arrive, this being the girl we saw in the very beginning. As Vegard hunts for his girlfriend with the one snowmobile available to them, the rest of the group continue their vacation, eventually coming across a box of gold that was hidden underneath their cabin. Their initial excitement is quickly dashed when zombified Nazis show up to reclaim their stolen riches, terrorizing the students and murdering any they can get their hands on. While Vegard continues his search, coming across a strange cave in the process, and the group back at the cabin do their best just to survive, the zombified Nazis gather in number, preparing for one last push to get back that which they covet the most.

DS5

{Let that be a lesson to you, always leave hidden gold where it was found}

There is a certain pet peeve of mine that is exemplified in Dead Snow, one I can’t be the only person who shares. If the audience is already acutely aware of what the creature or creatures are, why spend such a good chuck of a film trying to make it mysterious. We’re already aware that the creatures attacking the cabin and terrorizing the snow covered mountains are zombies, yet Dead Snow spends a good chunk of its time making it mysterious. It’s on the freaking cover, it’s in all the previews, and it’s right in any plot you read. We know they’re zombies, so it makes no sense to spend so much time as if we don’t. And I’m not talking about the mystery as to why they’re zombies, that makes sense to hide from the audience, adds a bit of suspense to the flick, so I completely understand that, it’s normal. No, I’m solely talking about making the zombies themselves a secret, a secret that everyone already knows. If you already know that the creatures are zombies, it makes little sense to act otherwise, but that’s exactly what Dead Snow does. I guess they hoped a lot of underground dwellers were going to be watching Dead Snow on their first trips to the surface, watching it without seeing the cover on top of that. I understand that it seems like such a minor thing to harp on, but it’s an annoyance to have a flick spend time hiding their creatures when the knowledge of what they are is readily available to anyone with sight. Sadly, this isn’t my biggest complaint about the film.

DS3{If you look at this and don’t immediately think know they’re zombies, you might need to watch some more zombie movies}

My biggest complaint would be the sheer amount of things that occur during the film that either don’t make sense, or are outright silly, and they start right off the bat, making you even more aware of their existence as you watch Dead Snow. That woman running through the snow at the film’s start, Sara, she takes a break during her escape to look back at her pursuers only to notice they’ve disappeared, nothing out of the ordinary for a horror flick, nor is them popping back up to snag her. What’s silly is when one of the Nazi zombie pops up right in front of her face after somehow traversing a field of snow with only thin, near leafless trees. Understand, it was twenty feet behind her when they showed them only a second before. Did it dig under the snow to get there? Do these zombies have the power of invisibility? Are they zombified Nazi chameleons that blend into the snow? It was just ridiculous and worked against the serious tone of the flick. This is sadly one of many, many things the viewer will notice. I’ll give a few of the more glaring ones so you get an idea of the constant stream of dumb bits you’ll be assaulted with:

  • The Nazi zombies are implied to have been there since the end of WW2, hoarding their gold and attacking anyone who comes to close. Sara’s family, the above mentioned pop up victim, owns the cabin, so one would assume they know about the area, yet they know nothing about the zombies roaming around in the snow. I’d be willing to believe they were dormant until the gold was found, but they attack Sara well before the valuables have been discovered meaning they attack anyone in the area regardless, yet no one knows about them. I’m pretty sure that if I was familiar with an area, I’d most likely know about a group of undead war criminals that threaten unwary travelers.
  • Remember that mention of Vegard, Sara’s boyfriend, taking a snowmobile to go look for his missing girlfriend? Well he decides that the best way to go looking for her is to spend his search time doing badass stunts and looking for the biggest hills to jump. He must be pretty worried about her if he’s willing to risk destroying his fastest means of locating her for a few sweet tricks.
  • The students spend a good amount of time wondering how to get help, cell phones having been stated from the beginning to not work that far up the mountain, yet at one point someone whips out a cell phone to call police like it’s always been an option. If there was a working cell phone, why the fuck did they wait so long to use the fucking thing? The phone dies because of course it does, and this brings up something else dumb, why is it dead? No one has been using their phones so there was no point in them being turned on. It should have had plenty of charge. I’d rather them have just ignored phones completely versus adding in reasons for them not to be used just to turn around and use them, making it even worse when the damn thing runs out of charge.

These are some of the more glaring ones, but they are by no means the only examples, even if many of the others are minor (like a woman using an outhouse only to be pulled through and then shown to be clothed more or less normally, maybe it’s just me, but I try not to go to the bathroom through my underwear). They are just so constant that it’s impossible to ignore, not to mention that they begin so early on that you’re awareness of them is heightened on top of their frequency.

DS6{I won’t even get started on the snowmobile mounted machine gun but that’s only because the idea is awesome}

Then there’s the Nazi zombies themselves. Let me say this first before going into why I found them to be problematic, they look absolutely amazing. The makeup work put into creating them is top notch and astounding, I have no complaints about how they looked as it’s some of the best work I’ve seen when it comes to the undead. Unfortunately, this doesn’t quite save them from being as silly as a lot of the movie. Much of it comes down to how they act, and different bits that should have been edited out. When I say how they act, I don’t mean how well the actors do as the undead, the actors are actually great and manage to pull off some threatening performances. What I mean is how they act as zombies, like hiding things from people to surprise them later, jumping out of nowhere for pop scares, or aggressively stabbing people when they have access to guns. That last one I could almost forgive considering the zombies’ aggressive behavior (even if they are shown to be very much the Nazis they once were so using guns would have made more sense to them), but the other two complaints I couldn’t get past. Their popping out of nowhere was ridiculous in that they weren’t popping up from behind objects or jumping out of bushes, they were literally popping up out of nowhere as if they were imbued with some kind of magic power. Not only were the zombified Nazis fond of pranking people by jumping out of nothing, they also liked to screw with people by leaving items to be found later on. A great example is Sara’s backpack, after they killed her in the beginning, they hauled her backpack with them to leave it next to the cabin, thus terrifying the students inside. I understand they were supposed to be based on the Norse draugr instead of the traditional cinematic zombie, draugrs being basically Scandinavian undead that covet gold, but they didn’t come across as frightening versions of either, but instead just seemed like undead pranksters who like to take things a little too far. As far as what should have been edited out, how about them breathing. Several times throughout the film they are shown breathing heavily, their breath fogging up in front of their mouths. If they are undead why are they breathing, and why are they getting tired enough to breathe heavily? It was like the writers couldn’t figure out exactly what they wanted their creatures to be. Worst of all of these though, an effect far too many zombie flicks go with, was the blood constantly pouring from their mouths. Unless there is some kind of reverse black hole in their throats that spews nothing but blood, it doesn’t make sense to have an endless supply of blood coming out of their mouths.

DS2{Still, they do look amazing when they aren’t dribbling blood like a morbid infant}

Okay, so I’ve complained a lot about this movie, but if you scroll down to look at its rating, you’ll see that I gave it three rotten heads. Why? Well, because as many problems as Dead Snow has, it was still a fun movie. The actors all do a great job, the effects are astounding, and once things start going south for our protagonists, the film becomes a full on action flick filled with lots of juicy, juicy carnage. The last stand of the surviving students is a thing of beauty as a few members of the living face off against an entire squad of the undead with nothing but garden tools they found in a nearby shed. It features some of the most creative and gory zombie kills this side of Dead Alive. While the last stand is the greatest example of the gory death you’ll find in Dead Snow, the entire film is full of visceral gore. A man gets his face ripped right off, his brain falling out of the newly made hole, a zombie’s intestines are used as a rope, and a man is completely dismembered by a group of the undead, and all of it looked absolutely amazing.

DS4{Just a little teaser}

Even though Dead Snow suffers from a lot of problems that I wish had been corrected before its release, it’s still an enjoyable film that I’d give a watch to if you haven’t yet. The only other thing to be wary of are the subtitles. White subtitles in a film where most of the landscape is white don’t work all that great. Beyond that, I think you’ll still have a lot of fun watching it.

 

The Undead Review

 

Directed By: Tommy Wirkola (Kill Buljo: The Movie, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters)

Written By: Tommy Wirkola (Kill Buljo: The Movie, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and Stig Frode Henriksen (Kill Buljo: The Movie, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead)

Starring: Vegar Hoel (Inside the Whore, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters), Stig Frode Henriksen (Kill Buljo: The Movie, Essential Killing), Lasse Valdal (Manhunt, Hjem), and Orjan Gamst (Kill Buljo: The Movie, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead)

Released By: IFC Films, Euforia Film, and Yellow Bastard Production

Release Year: 2009

Release Type: Theatrical Release

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Rotten Heads: Three Heads Out of Five

About The Undead Review

When I was alive I was an asshole and after I died remained pretty much the same, if not a little worse. You’d think becoming a member of the walking dead would mellow a person out, no more worrying about awkward small talk with people, no more having to be politically correct, and the entire world is your upright, bipedal buffet. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as hell to be a zombie, just somewhat irritating at times, especially those times you have to watch a lame movie or read a lame book. Thankfully, when I am forced to watch these films or read those books, I’ve got places like The Undead Review to bitch and moan to my heart’s content. {When he’s not devouring the living or sinking his teeth into a good film The Undead Review (Andy Taylor) spends his time writing his own stories or hunting down the paranormal. Oh, and did we mention his blind dog once saved the world?)
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