Zombies & Nazi’s Make For a Great Easter Weekend Treat.

After decades of zombie splatter movies, audiences have come to know the basic outline of the plot. People arrive in a location. Zombies attack. Chaos ensues. The only way filmmakers can really differentiate themselves from the pack is by adding some kind of twist to the story, whether it’s in the premise, the creativity of the kills or some self-aware comedy. It also helps that fans of splatter movies love the tropes that come with the genre, even if it’s an ironic love.

Dead Snow, directed by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola and written by Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen, follows a bunch of students who come to a snowy cabin for fun winter sports, drinking and hooking up. But the village where they chose to stay happens to be haunted by some Nazi zombies, who were killed by the villagers after attempting to loot the village.

Dead Snow Zombies

 

I’ve never seen this movie. Armed only with the brief Netflix description, I went into this movie not really knowing what to expect. The movie opens with a zombie attack set to the Edvarg Grieg classic “In the Hall of the Mountain King,” which sets up a tongue-in-cheek vibe. The movie then shifts to the students: Martin (Vegar Hoel), his girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Roy (co-writer Frode Henriksen), Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten), Vegard (Lasse Valdal) and Chris (Jenny Skavlan). They’re going to the cabin of Vegard’s girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp), who has decided to hike up to the cabin herself. The friends fit into the standard group of friends that movies like this feature. The cast has an easy chemistry and the friends seem to genuinely like each other. So it doesn’t feel like the writers just made up this group because they needed characters with different personalities.

Wirkola’s direction is really great here. He milks the situations for both its creepiness and its humor in equal measures. One of my favorite moments in the film is when Chris sees a creepy figure from the outhouse. Then she goes back into the cabin, saying that there’s someone outside. The gang looks out the window and Roy opens the door and looks outside. He delivers a wisecrack about women scaring easily in the most douchebag way and then he steps out of the frame to reveal the creepy figure (“The Wanderer,” played by Bjorn Sundquist). It’s startling but it’s also a little funny. Roy’s line was so on-the-nose jerky that it becomes the set-up for a payoff that’s both a jump scare and a punchline.

I like when movies like this operate on the two levels of comedy and horror. Not that Dead Snow will make you double over laughing but there are some self-aware one-liners and gross but ironic visual gags that zing. Wirkola’s use of music is also really fun, especially in an extended action scene with Martin and Roy.

In an interview Wirkola said that he chose to make his zombies Nazis because Nazis are true unsympathetic villains. He said there was a long history of Nazis in the north of Norway, so to bring those two together would make for the worst kind of villain. The film also takes inspiration from the Norwegian myth of the draugr, an undead creature who jealously guards stolen possessions as if they belonged to the draugr. These elements make Dead Snow feel specific to the location and not just another generic exercise in gore.

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Dead Snow is a pretty insane movie in that “midnight horror” way. The film is cheeky, and the violence is gruesome and deliciously over the top. While I liked the first half, which focuses more on suspense and building up the zombies, the second half is really entertaining. The gang starts to fight back against the zombies and that’s where the film becomes more comedic than horrific. The action direction keeps things moving swiftly. If I have one complaint is that the characters are split up too much but that’s a minor one.

The movie is pretty fun but at the same time, the story on paper is pretty standard. Wirkola and Frode Henriksen try to keep things fresh but it’s not hard to see where things are going from the outset. They sort of address the inevitability with characters talking about horror movies but sometimes that just feels like a “we know we’re not being original” hand-wave. My only problem with self-aware horror movies is that self-awareness can seem like an excuse for borrowing from older movies. It’s not a huge problem for me and it doesn’t stop Dead Snow from being super cool. It’s just something I thought of while watching this film.

If you like gory, funny zombie splatter movies, then Dead Snow is for you. Fans of the genre may recognize its story elements and shock scenes, however the film has a weird sense of humor, creative execution and a cast that’s game for anything. The film is in Norwegian, with English subtitles and it’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Retro Review: Nazi Zombies Ruin Easter Weekend in 'Dead Snow'
It won't shock the desensitized, but Dead Snow is gory, funny and insane enough to entertain.
Rating 8.5
Pros
  • Gruesome, over the top violence
  • Great balance of horror and comedy
  • Game cast with good chemistry
Cons
  • Hits same beats as you'd expect
8.5Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)
55%

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About The Author

Manish first came to love horror through Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and Roman Polanski's Repulsion. He still sometimes has to sleep with the TV on after catching the latest scary flick. Manish loves ghost stories, psycho-thrillers and gory horror-comedies. You can check out more of Manish's writing at his personal blog "Mathur & the Marquee" or on twitter @hippogriffrider.