When a zombie film is called the “darling” of the increasingly-prestigious Sundance Festival, you know you’ve got a movie on your hands that is at least worth a look-see. Fortunately for those who do seek out the movie in question, “Dead Snow,” there should be something in it for every zombie fan to reward them many times over for finding this film.
“Dead Snow,” or as it’s known in the original Norwegian language in which it was filmed, “Død Snø,” could probably be best defined as an homage to the small genre category of horror comedies, especially those of the days gone by – the ‘80s and ‘90s in particular. Indeed, the characters directly reference such snarky classics as “Evil Dead” and “Braindead” during their conversations with one another. The main characters consist of six college students who travel to a remote cabin in the snowy woods – sound familiar, “Evil Dead” fans? – on their Easter break for some good old-fashioned fun and fornication. Well, technically five college students are the main characters, as one meets her untimely demise at the hands of the zombies as she is going to meet up with the others before the title of the movie even hits the screen.
That’s your first exposure to “Dead Snow:” the movie opens with a hapless, helpless female running through snow-covered trees with zombies in hot pursuit, all set to the lovely classical tune “In the Valley of the Mountain King.” It’s the first three minutes of the film, and you immediately know you’ve got one fun ride on your hands.
Oh, and I forgot to mention one important thing: these aren’t just any old regular zombies. Oh, no, how could they be in a movie like this? That’s right: they’re Nazi Zombies, replete with a convoluted backstory obligingly told by the requisite Creepy Old Man who just happens to be wandering through the snow-capped mountains alone for some reason and conveniently stops by the isolated cabin a few short hours before the all-out zombie attacks begin. Cliché and overdone, yes, but in a movie like this, that clearly wants to honor those that came before, it feels perfectly in tune.
Even though the plot does suffer from some Swedish-sized holes (heck, maybe this is in homage to the old horror comedies too!), there is simply too much fun to be had while this film is playing for the avid zombie viewer to stop and get upset about it. The carnage is plentiful, and the movie even manages to give us a few gore-related tidbits that I’d never seen before, which is hard to accomplish after 40-plus years of modern zombie movies. Pay special attention to the young man who sews and duct-tapes his own wounds shut before finding himself hanging off a cliff while grasping onto the large intestine still actively spilling out of the midsection of a zombie that is still trying to kill him.
Yeah. Told you the film was a good time.
I was mostly enamored with this movie and the great amount of fun everyone seemed to be having. Even as a self-proclaimed “Plot Nazi,” I wasn’t terribly bothered by the inconsistencies in the story, which mostly revolved around the Nazi Zombies’ background story and their seemingly-random attacks on certain people. The references to other zombie and horror films are plentiful, with tongues planted firmly in cheek the whole way: it’s no spoiler to tell you that the characters who say “I’ll be right back” and the first to have sex are the first ones to die. The zombies are scary and seemingly everywhere, and the blood and body parts fly freely. An all-around good time.
Surprisingly for a movie that seems to be a loving tribute to other movies, there is a decent amount of uncharted ground here. Although the zombie genre has become increasingly crowded since this film’s release 10 years ago, they did some cool stuff before anyone else did: crazy scenes like one of the characters biting the zombies back and another character waking up to find a couple of zombies rifling through her still-attached innards really give you things in this movie that help set it apart from others. Plus, the setting is amazing: seeing fresh blood splatter on pure white snow and seeing the heat rising off of intestines freshly pulled from someone’s body give the viewer the chance to see things in “Dead Snow” they may never see anywhere else.
Every movie has its lowest point, and it’s some of the logistical questions that harm the film somewhat. The rationale behind why the Nazi Zombies attack is very flimsy and doesn’t hold up when they start attacking everybody in sight. The college students are awfully knowledgeable about what a zombie is and how you can avoid being killed by one, until they need to use that knowledge, of course – one character in particular screams “Don’t let them bite you!” right before he moves to stand in front of the window and simply wait there until the zombies inevitably crash through and make him not-alive anymore. As mentioned above, however, you’ll probably simply be having too much fun watching the movie to even care.
The film looks amazing in almost every aspect. The wide shots of the beautiful natural settings of the mountains of Norway are spectacular. The special effects are unbelievably good-looking, and plentiful as well; the entire second half of the movie is an absolute gore-a-thon, and the intricate attention to detail in the carnage given by the effects crew is borderline-obsessive. The best part of the movie, though, has to be the actual editing of the film: the first half of the movie plays like a very serious horror film, and the second half is a straight-up fun-loving splatterfest. Some people may find the juxtaposition a little jarring, but I thought it gave me, as an avid zombie movie viewer, the perfect mix of two of the best kinds of undead movie I know and love.
I firmly believe that the makers of “Dead Snow” were trying to create a movie that not only honored the fun walking-dead movies of the last 20 years but also added their own mark on the genre. If so, I’d say they succeeded in a fashion that should be enjoyable to even the most picky of zombie lovers.