Dead Snow (2009)

The last of our “Scary Subtitles” series for the year, this little Norwegian flick about “Nazi Zombies” made a bit of a stir when it came out 9 (!) years ago. It’s cabin-in-the-woods type horror, with a Scandinavian flavor and lots of snow (which is always welcome). The Flower bowed out for this one, being tired and figuring this was exactly what it appeared to be, so The Boy and trundled off on our own.

Crocodile Dundee: THAT'S a thread.
Hanging by a … that’s not a thread.

The first half of this movie is so by-the-book as to, frankly, be a little dull. It starts with a woman running through the mountains being chased by…something. That something, of course, is Nazi Zombies. You saw the poster. You know what’s going on. Now, they aren’t really zombies in any applicable definition. They’re more ghouls or revenants, and they move fast, use tools and plan attacks. They also don’t make any sense, in terms of their actions or plans. But I get ahead of myself.

Anyway, first girl is killed, and we cut to her friends traveling to the cabin she was headed for, four more guys and three more girls. They arrive at the cabin, goof off for a while, then get a scary visit from a mean old dude. Boyfriend of girl goes to find her on snowmobile—he’s also the only one who can find their way out of the mountains—and more goofing off ensues. Cute single girl inexplicably attracted to fat movie-geek dude (hey!) and has gross sex in an outhouse with him.

What could possibly go wrong?
They’re going to pay off their student loans with Nazi gold.

She’s promptly murdered, and that’s when things start in earnest. Fat guy goes next. We’re down to two guys and two girls in a cabin, and none of them are very bright.

But when the gore hits, that’s when the movie starts to shine. It’s ridiculously over-the-top, with fat guy’s head being split vertically, dropping his brain on to the floor, for example. And the ineptness of the kids as they’re fighting for their lives, along with comments, make the film more comedic and action-oriented than anything like horror.

In the first act, the movie foreshadows the oncoming events with references to the Evil Dead series and April Fool’s Day, and the second act the movie expertly treads the line between comedy and farce. That is, even if we’re not very interested in our characters, we do get that they’re in an existential struggle—even when that struggle takes on absurd dimensions. We actually grow to like the characters more as they struggle because, dammit, at least they’re trying. Director Tommy Wirkola references Evil Dead 2 with some quick zoom/cuts (a la early Edgar Wright) and an over-the-top amputation scene, but doesn’t just rip it off wholesale.

How evil are they?
These dead are evil.

We liked it: It was simultaneously more and less than we were expecting. Less, in the sense of atmospheric horror. More in the sense of funhouse horror. You sort of think you’re going to get a survival horror—which has pretty strict rules and ties to reality, a la Night of the Living Dead—but that doesn’t work here, because the Undeadzis are clearly smarter, better prepared, and immortal (though not immune to pain, curiously) than the college doofs. There’s no reason, were they acting in any way other than to set up the second act, that they couldn’t have wiped all the kids out in the first five minutes. But funhouse horror has its own rules, which are basically, “If it’s cool, do it.” The Boy drew a parallel to From Dusk Till Dawn, though we both agreed the ’90s film is better.

So, we were both a little set back by the slow opening however but this is still probably the best of the Undead Nazi genre. The sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead actually has a higher rating on IMDB. And the third in the franchise is said to be in the offing. I don’t know if either of those count as “must sees” but you could do a lot worse the week before Halloween.

High on a hill lived a lonely Nazi...
About the same amount of Nazis as in “Sound of Music”, come to think of it.

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