Dead Snow (2009)

Some zombie movies spend a significant chunk of screen time explaining the origin of the infection. For example, the do-gooder animal activists releasing rage-infected primates at the beginning of 28 Days Later, or all those nudist aliens in Night of the Creeps. Most others, like the original Night of the Living Dead, make at least a passing reference to possible causes of a given outbreak, even if the focus is primarily on the survivors’ story. Dead Snow wastes precisely no time explaining how a group of evil German soldiers managed to get all zombified. Even though my favorite part of a zombie tale is generally the back story and the early stages of the epidemic, Dead Snow doesn’t suffer much for the omission.

The story: We begin on a dark Norwegian night with a woman in ski apparel hurtling through a wooded snowscape, pursued by some barely glimpsed terror. As Peer Gynt‘s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” rises in the background, we get a sense of the movie’s macabre sense of humor. The darkly playful tune simultaneously underscores and mocks her fear, while giving a taste of the frenetic pace to which the movie will ultimately ascend. Needless to say, our fair snow bunny is zombie food.

Vhere is Colonel Hogan?

Cut to the sunny morning after: a bunch of young med students are on their way to spend the Easter holiday at their friend’s cabin in the mountains. Of course they don’t yet know that said friend just got ripped apart on the hillside, so they’re still having a pretty good time. Perfunctory revelry ensues but things quickly turn serious when a strange mountaineer stops by and harshes the group’s buzz. He cautions the arrogant youths to tread lightly in these mountains, given the area’s dark history. It seems during World War II, the Germans stationed a company of SS soldiers in the village at the base of the mountain to secure its strategically located port. But unlike other occupying forces, these soldiers were monstrous sadists who tortured the local populace for years. Only after looting the town clean of any valuables (apparently one does not fuck with a Norwegian’s money) did the villagers finally rise up and chase the soldiers into the mountains, where they were presumed to have frozen to death. It’s perhaps a little disappointing that we don’t get at least a cursory nod to some diabolical super soldier program gone wrong to explain the troops’ resistance to death, but not so much you’d notice.

Angry mountain man leaves and the real killing begins, starting with him. One by one the cocky kids get flayed and gutted in deliciously explicit fashion, leading up to the big showdown with the undead hoarde and its demonic commander, Colonel Herzog.

So much better than the beach.

Biggest letdown: Some people can’t be bothered with subtitles, which prompts me to say that the biggest letdown is people who can’t be bothered with subtitles. If you enjoy inferior American remakes more than the foreign originals because they don’t require all that pesky reading, you deserve to have someone pull your head apart by your eyeholes. Feel free to contact me for some excellent Norwegian vacation suggestions.

As for the movie itself I guess the biggest letdown is the lack of meaningful pre-slaughter interactions among our young would-be M.D.s. Dead Snow is shooting for something akin to what Severence did so masterfully: an ironic, underplayed wit that gives way to abject terror when things go south. Instead the characters’ interchangeable personalities and scripted shenanigans leave them all looking pretty one-dimensional and in the final battles none of their relationships resonate with much force.

Why you should watch: Dead Snow boasts several selling points, not the least of which is the rip-roarin’ death metal soundtrack. Everything I know tells me this is the only kind of music permitted in all of Scandinavia. Then you have the Nazi zombies themselves, which don’t fit into any preconceived archetype: they’re fully capable of running, using weapons and even speaking in short bursts. They must also be decent at garment repair because after 70 years in the snow their uniforms are still nice and crisp. They do bite but they’re more interested in stabbing and dismembering. And did I mention they’re Nazi zombies? Who cares if it makes sense, they are zombies who are also Nazis. Break out the chainsaws!

Bam bam bam bam!

Speaking of chainsaws – it has to be noted that the majority of the film pays almost too much homage to Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies, right down to the push-pull rapid zoom shots and a character chopping off his own arm. If only Bruce Campbell could have been convinced to leave the set of Burn Notice long enough for a cameo…

Memorable Moment: I was all set to go with this sweet little caesura when Sven or Olaf or whoever was sitting alone atop the mountain, quietly unwrapping his sandwich, showing his awe at the pristine surroundings with nothing more than a shy half smile. But then the brunette followed the fat guy to the outhouse and fucked him while he was taking a shit. SOLD.

Choice quote: “If you stand with your own intestines in your hands, then what do you do? Or your limbs torn off? What will you do then? Did they teach you that? Thanks for the coffee.”

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4 Responses to “Dead Snow (2009)”

  1. Robert Campbell Says:

    Thanks for the bam bam bams…! Hit the road, toad!

  2. […] 31 Flavors of Terror A terrifying movie terror-thon of terror « Dead Snow (2009) […]

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