- Tommy Wirkola
- Vegard Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan
- 88 min.
- Release Date
Dead Snow is a zombie movie that features the novelty twist of Nazi zombies. Given the promise of its horrifying combination of history’s easiest villains and a movie monster with its own subgenre, there’s some expectation of ingenuity and inventiveness. Instead, the audience is subject to the whims of another desperately self-referential horror director who would rather be making fan fiction than his own movie. Trying frantically to emulate the styles of Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright, director Tommy Wirkola wishes Shaun of the Dead hadn’t already been made, because then his approach might be original.
Made in Norway, the film’s story is rather typical, derived from clichés established in American horror—which it acknowledges, making direct mentions of Friday the 13th and The Evil Dead within the first 10-minutes. The story follows those strains exactly: A group of seven horny Norwegians (all, pointlessly, medical students) drive out to a cabin in the snowy mountains (owned by their friend, who gets eaten before the opening credits) for an Easter break getaway. They’re secluded and right away start disappearing one-by-one; the group grows concerned until the final stretch where all bloody hell breaks loose.
Hiding under the snow is an army of Nazi soldiers, trapped in the mountains since WWII when local villagers drove them away. No one really explains how exactly the Nazis became zombies; the customary weirdo drifter who warns the group of the dangerous territory makes vague allusions to a curse, which still fails to clarify why they’ve risen from the grave hungry for human flesh. Furthermore, as a native Minnesotan, I’ve always felt pretty secure knowing that if ever a zombie apocalypse transpired, the walking undead corpses would probably freeze solid sometime during our 8-month-long winters here. And it’s a noted bit of curiosity that the Norwegian sub-zero elements, seemingly constant in the wintry mountains, have no apparent effect on the brain-munchers. In fact, they run about like cheetahs with inexplicable speed and strength. But why bother looking for logic in a movie about Nazi zombies?
The interaction between the non-undead characters is insufferable. What is it about body-count horror movies—why do they rarely ever include likable characters? I suppose it’s so we can laugh when they’re eventually ripped apart and eaten. This group of snobs and jerks carries on drinking and laughing; we endure probably the grossest movie sex scene ever (located in an outhouse), and then we’re ultimately relieved when the Nazi zombies emerge and the killing starts. Movies like this are made to be splatterfests, supplying horror fiends with gore-gasms, testing the limits of what we’ve seen in dozens of other flicks carbon copied from each other. This one, aside from your usual chainsaw and shotgun antics, boasts a machinegun-mounted snowmobile and a curious preoccupation with intestines getting snagged on trees.
Wirkola’s previous film Kill Buljo parodied Quentin Tarantino, but with co-writer Stig Frode Henriksen, he tries to make Dead Snow into a story of its own, despite copying from horror classics left and right. It reaches for the Shaun of the Dead standard of comedy-horror, wherein self-aware references accompany an original narrative. But Wirkola’s movie relies too much on laughing with the audience to advance into its own product. There’s “workshed” and self-amputation nods to Raimi’s Evil Dead series, story structure derivations all around, and editing tricks that take directly from Raimi and Wright. None of the references congeal and work only to remove us from the ensuing horror show. You’re better off sticking with the real deal and avoiding this pilferage altogether, no matter how interested you are in seeing Nazi zombies (or is it zombie Nazis?).