Friday, April 2, 2010

Dead Snow (2009)

Title: Dead Snow (2009) 

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Writer: Stig Frode Henriksen, Tommy Wirkola


The Nazi Zombie sub-genre was never one of the best sub-genres in horror. Theres a reason why there are so few of these nazi zombie movies out there. Now, I don't think this has to do with people not liking nazi-zombie movies. I think it has to do with the fact that the nazi-zombie movies that have gotten made simply aren't very good films. For example, take Zombie Lake directed by Jean Rollin in 1981. The story with this one is that a group of nazi's were killed and buried in a lake. A couple of years later, they are revived and the come back to get revenge upon the town that laid them to rest. The problem with this film is that its so boring! The zombies themselves look like they simply have green paint on their faces! It simply wasn't a good zombie film. The cover of the film is a whole lot better then the movie itself, so I guess that says a lot about the movie. It was simply an excuse to show naked girls skinny dipping in a lake. The movie feels more like soft porn then anything else. Its the kind of movie that feels like it was made by a group of pornographers looking to get out of the porn business by making a legitimate movie. In other words, the film stinks. 

Another example of the nazi-zombie genre is Shock Waves (1977). This one was directed by Kevin Wiederhorn, the guy responsible for directing Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988). Thing about Shock Waves is that its considered to be the best of the nazi-zombie movies. Which is strangely true, but its only the best because the others that came before it were so bad. Shock Waves is a shockingly boring affair. Though the movie does have its virtues. For example the thing I like the most about it is the cinematography. Those images of the zombies emerging from the water are awesome! The zombies have these goggles attached to their faces that makes them look even creepier. One thing that Shock Waves got right was the look of the nazi zombies. But striking images aside, the films major flaw is its pacing. Characters end up in an abandoned mansion in an isolated island. A cool setting in deed, everything looks so abandoned. But aside from a spooky setting, and some nifty looking zombies, the film is so slow you will be bored to tears. One other good thing the film has about it is that Peter Cushing stars in it in an extended cameo. He is the one responsible for telling us the background story for the nazis. So, Shock Waves, though visually interesting at times is still not a great nazi-zombie film.

And heres what always bothered me about Nazi-zombie movies: they have such a cool premise, yet somehow they always fail to live up to it. Think about it, the supernatural roots of the nazi movement, the undead, those scary looking nazi uniforms. I mean, right there, you got all you need to make a cool movie if you do it right. Unfortunately, these nazi zombie movies always end up being a freaking bore. Another fine example of just how boring nazi zombie movies can be is Oasis of the Zombies (1981) directed by Jesus Franco. So in essence what Im trying to say here is the nazi zombie movies have never really been all that great. Until now. Until Dead Snow! Literally, without a shred of a doubt I can say that this is the best nazi zombie movie ever made to date! The movie isn't a masterpiece (for reasons I will go into soon) but it doesn't commit the same mistakes previous zombie movies made in the past. Its not boring at all!

Premise for Dead Snow has a group of friends going to the mountains of Norway for a little rest and relaxation. Basically, people start playing in the snow, they run around in their snow mobiles at high speeds, they have snow ball battles, you know, your basic "fun times" montage type of deal. While there, an old man comes into the cabin suddenly and starts telling the group all about this group of nazi's that were killed and buried somewhere in the area, and that its all real, it happened, and you better watch out. Your basic "these woods are haunted" "this town is cursed" type of character. Pretty soon, the old dudes story is confirmed. Nazi zombies begin to come out of their graves and attack the group of youngsters.

Anybody seen Ash? Wheres Bobby Joe?

First, Im going to go into the bad elements of the film. Which weren't really all that many. My main gripe with Dead Snow is that its opening sequences feel way to much like other movies. What I really want to say is that this film is sucking Evil Dead II's dick all the way. I mean, fine, your a fan of Sam Raimi and his movies, thats great kid. But do you have to shove it into our faces every five seconds? The script has characters referencing a bunch of films at one moment, talking all about Evil  Dead I and II, April Fools Day (1986) and Friday the 13th. Not to mention that the token movie buff character in the film is wearing a Dead Alive t-shirt through out the whole film! So this is the kind of movie that is constantly reminding us where its influences come from. And trust me, you will notice this director just LOVES Sam Raimi. The film follows step by step the whole set up for the Evil Dead films. Lets see: 

- Characters driving up to a lonely cabin in the woods and talking all sorts of bullshit along the way? Check! 
- Characters having fun in the cabin, drinking, making out with each other? Check! 
- The evil threat comes from the woods? Check! 
- The Cabin has a tool shed in the backyard, where the characters get among other things a chainsaw? Check! 
- A character chops off his hand (actually his whole arm) with a chainsaw because he was bitten? Check!

So these are just some of the similarities this film has with Evil Dead I and II. The film also feeds off of other famous horror films like John Carpenter's The Fog (1980). There is this whole backstory about how the nazi zombies are looking for their gold, and they will stop at nothing to get their gold. Actually, in that way its also similar also to the Leprechaun movies, but never mind that. So basically, this movie has a lame sort of back story to it involving gold hungry zombies. One thing I never got about movies like The Fog and this one is: exactly what do these zombies want with their gold? Go shopping for new nazi uniforms or something? But whatever, I just went with it because this backstory is really just an excuse to see some cool looking nazi zombies, and the mayhem that ensues while the good guys try to stop them. So, did this movie deliver in that department at least? My answer to that question would be a resounding "Hell Yeah!"

Dead Snow  delivers where it matters when it comes to nazi zombie movies! First off, the nazi zombies themselves look freaking awesome! The movie does take a while before the nazi zombies actually do show up. I counted 45 minutes before things really got moving. Thats the one thing I didn't like about it, you have to go through all this predictable set up phase of the movie (which pretty much takes 45 minutes to develop) before we get to what we came here to see: Nazi Zombies! But I tell you, once the movie gets going, it only gets better and better. This movie will have you cheering by the time it finishes. There is enough zombie mayhem to satisfy the biggest zombie fan (thats me!). One amazing sequence has the leader of the nazi zombies give out this supernatural yell that wakes up all other nazi zombies that are laying around buried in the snow! Suddenly were dealing with a freaking army of nazi zombies! Great moment right there. This actually had me clapping quite a few times saying "well done! well done!" The gore is simply fantastic in certain moments, you wont be disappointed there. 

One of the things I loved the most about this movie was the make up effects for the zombies. They simply look awesome. I think what makes it work is the black and white look they have to them. They are pale and have black bruises and blood stains all over their faces, plus, that nazi uniform simply makes them look even cooler. So in essence, this movie is very inspired by other horror films, and it shows, but by the time we get to the nazi zombies, and the mayhem that accompanies them, this film more then makes up for all its flaws. The film simply gets better as it progresses, till by the last frames you will be cheering it on. This film has set the standard for nazi zombie movies, who will be next in line to up the ante?  

Rating: 4 out of 5

Zombie LakeOasis of the ZombiesShock WavesDead Snow


Simon said...

Are you questioning the merits of Nazi Zombie movies? I'm not very sure I approve...

Anyway, good review.

Franco Macabro said...

Nope, not questioning the merits of a GOOD zombie movie. Good nazi-zombie movies, I love and I approve of Dead Snow.

I love the concept behind Nazi Zombie movies, the whole supernatural nazi thing Ive thought brings in great elements for a good horror movie. I just don't think its ever been used to full advantage until Dead Snow.

Im sure other filmmakers can push this type of film even further then Dead Snow did. But this films director did a fine job, it got gory, fast paced...and the zombies looked great! I was happy with Dead Snow, a satisfying nazi zombie movie.

Cant say the same for the other ones I mentioned, those were major letdowns, except Shock Waves which had some nice visuals.

Mr. Fiendish said...

I did not enjoy this movie nowhere near as much as you did, but I get it's appeal. baaaad comedy

I still prefer Shock Waves

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

I enjoyed your enthusiastic review of Dead Snow, Francisco! I have only seen one non-English language zombie film and that was Zombie 2 by Lucio Fulci. While the zombies and gore were well done, I didn't like the wooden performances of the actors, or the somewhat dull pacing of the film. I watched Zombie 2 about five years ago and have shied away from foreign zombie films until I watched Dead Snow. So I'll have to take your word for it that Dead Snow is superior to Zombie Lake, Oasis of the Zombies and Shock Waves. What I liked about Dead Snow were the characters; who, despite the langue difference, I could still identify with easily. I also felt, for the most part -- until the over-the-top ending -- that they reacted in a realist fashion to the supernatural situation. I wasn't as bothered by the obvious parallels between Evil Dead and Dead Snow as you were. Frankly, I think Evil Dead and its two sequels are vastly overrated by fans and have never enjoyed them. Sam Raimi's overuse of his hand-held tracking shot, as well as his overtly cartoonish visual humor is what puts me off his Evil Dead trilogy. My theory on horror films in general, is that because they are almost an entirely visceral experience, it is crucial for the filmmaker to create sympathetic characters that you care enough about so that when they are facing down death, you are involved enough in their well being to vicariously feel their fear and terror. Dead Snow works very well on this level and amazingly enough, manages to be frightfully funny as well.

Anonymous said...

I didn't really dig this one. TOO much self-referencing and the comedy aspects fell flat. Loved the makeup and effects but just overall, the film fell a little flat.

Franco Macabro said...

This movie is apparently very polarizing! Some hate and some love for it in here.

@Fritz-there are many non-english language horror movies that you would like. I recently saw a film called The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue and was impressed by it. I don't get why it doesn't get mentioned as much around horror fans, its a very underrated zombie flick. I reviewed it a couple of weeks ago, search for that review and you'll see my full take on it. Id also recommend watching Cemetery Man, a masterpiece of Italian zombie movies, directed by Michele Soavi, one of the best Italian horror directors.

@Planet of Terror: I agree with the self referencing stuff, mentioning other films, having characters wear t-shirts advertising movies the director obviously worships, this movie does it a lot. I guess thats why one of the characters is a movie buff, to give them an excuse to mention all these other horror movies that the director obviously enjoys a lot.

But what I did like about it is that once the film gets passed that whole set up phase of the movie, and the nazi zombies show up, things really get good! The zombie mayhem was a-ma-zing!

Fritz "Doc" Freakenstein said...

Thanks for the two additional Italian zombie flicks, Francisco. I'll add The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (also titled Let Sleeping Corpses Lie) to my Netflix queue. I'm not surprised that I had forgotten that I had already watched Cemetery Man, because -- checking my notes -- I watched it way back in 1998 on cable. I remember being impressed by Cemetery Man's moody cinematography and nuanced acting by Rupert Everett, but I'd be lying if I didn't admit that it was just a little too (as my friend Phileas likes to call them) "artsy fartsy" for me. I prefer my zombie movies faster paced and more action packed! Hence, my wicked intense props for Dead Snow!

Franco Macabro said...

Your right Fritz, Cemetery Man does fall into the "artsy fartsy" type of horror film, which is really why I love it, but it doesn't forget its a zombie movie either! But I see what you mean man!

Let Sleeping Corpses LIe is actually a film from spain, maid by spaniards wanting to produce a film they could market in the U.S., which they achieved.

Hope you enjoy it Fritz! If you like faster paced Italian Horror films, theres is this one zombie film that is ultra cheesy, very fast paced, and enjoyable, its called Nightmare City, I also reviewed it somewhere on this blog, search it out. Its not the best movie ever, but its never boring! Its pretty hilarious actually.

Thanks to all of you for commenting!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Ive been very surprised at the negative reactions to the film, because I am 100% with you on this one Franco, I thought it was a blast even if many of the jokes and styles were derivative of all of our favorite 80s classics. Definitely one of the better Zombie Nazi films, though I am also very partial to OUTPOST

Franco Macabro said...

So Outpost is considered a good zombie movie Carl? If it is, Im getting it, cause I thought Id covered all the nazi zombie movies! Ill do a check up on Outpost, but I will most defenetly be checking it out soon!


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