By C. Michael Forsyth
Nazis are scary and evil. Zombies are scary and evil. Nazi zombies are twice as scary and evil, right? Not necessarily, as the movie “Dead Snow” demonstrates.
The Norwegian zombie flick is about a group of young medical students who take a fun holiday break in a mountain cabin – unaware that the snow-covered peaks are infested with the reanimated corpses of German troops who froze to death there during World War II. It isn’t long before the murderous Nazi zombies blitzkrieg the campers, who must fight for their lives.
The movie isn’t particularly frightening. Turns out that Nazis don’t become any worse by virtue of being walking corpses – they’ve already maxed out. And zombies aren’t any more evil because they’re Nazis. Regardless of their politics, zombies pretty much all do the same thing: Kill, disembowel and eat people.
The filmmakers had an opportunity to come up with a neat mythology explaining the German soldiers’ return from the dead. We know the Nazis were devotees of the occult. Or perhaps a Gypsy cast a curse on the mass-murdering troops. But no explanation is offered.
Story logic is thrown out the window: The cabin has been in the family of one of the women for decades, yet she has no clue there’s anything dangerous about the area. In fact, she elects to get to the cabin by cross-country skiing instead of joining the rest of the gang in cars. The campers are warned about the Nazi menace by a creepy old geezer who stops by the cabin – yet he camps out in the middle of snow at night, only to become zombie fodder. The Nazis are drawn to their missing gold (an interesting, if not entirely original angle). Yet the attacks begin before the campers discover the gold. The zombie colonel (yes, the goose-stepping undead stormtroopers are still just following orders) commands hundreds of his men to rise from their snowy graves at once. But inexplicably, he waits till the end of the flick to do this, after dozens of the zombies have been picked off one by one.
The most original thing about the film is the setting, that forbidding snow-enshrouded wilderness. The landscape allows for set pieces I’ve never seen in a horror movie before. That scene when the undead horde suddenly rises from the snow on the orders of their mottled leader is especially effective. And you have to give the movie makers credit for braving the 15-degree weather, dangerous crevasses and foot-deep snow of the Scandinavian mountains to bring us the film.
The director Tommy Wirkola said in an interview with Cinema Junkie that he was imitating the style of Sam Raimi, creator of the slapstick-filled “Evil Dead” movies. The movie, he explained, was basically a chance to show Nazi zombies being killed in as many gory, over-the-top and humorous ways as possible.
“We tried to do Sam Raimi but in a new way and we just wanted a really fun, fun film. That’s it,” he explained. “We really didn’t bother too much about the rules.”
Sure, okay. I grew up on “Hogan’s Heroes”. I know how hilarious those bumbling Nazis can be.
Certainly there are some funny moments: After one of the campers is bitten on the arm, he hacks it offf with a chainsaw (a tribute to Bruce Campbell in “The Evil Dead”). As he stands there grinning triumphantly, a zombie emerges from the snow and bites his “wedding tackle.” He and his companion trade dismayed “Oh, oh, what now?” looks.
The difference is “The Evil Dead” trilogy truly worked as both comedy and horror. The stories unfolded logically and you truly rooted for Bruce Campbell’s character Ash to survive. In “Dead Snow” the supernatural story simply doesn’t come together and you’re not particularly invested in the characters.
So, while there is some gory fun here, I’m afraid I can only give “Dead Snow” a two out of five swastika rating.
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