Fantasia 2009: ‘Dead Snow’

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dead_snow_poster21Dead Snow
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Written by Tommy Wirkola and Stig Frode Henriksen
2009, Norway
Norway is known for a couple of things. The Fjords, Vikings and a wave of satanic arson and murder in the early 90’s that propelled black metal from its status as low-fi extreme metal to the most abrasive, evil music in the world. But apart from these things, Norway isn’t really known for much more. Its strategic value during World War 2 is hardly ever mentioned. Nor is its horror movies. Chances are, you’re reading this right now, completely unaware that Norway has ever produced any horror movies. Amazing, isn’t it? The reality is that if you’re a horror fan and reasonably in touch with recent nerd culture, you’re probably well aware of Dead Snow. You’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the pictures and posters, you’ve probably even read a few English language reviews and you may have even caught that horrific Linni Meister pop song about her ass where girls walk through the scene carrying Dead Snow posters. It has been lurking on the fringe on North American horror circles for some time and with a little bit of looking around, you can probably find a copy for your very own. But buyer beware! In spite of just about everyone on the planet declaring it an Arctic riff on Evil Dead 2, in spite of nazi zombies, it’s just another zombie movie.

As it would go, a pack of attractive Norwegian med students retreat to the arctic circle for your average horror movie set up. They seem to occupy the only cabin for miles around, their cell phones don’t work, it’s miles to civilization and there’s only one snowmobile. They’re supposed to meet their friend, who owns the place, but she never turns up. Her absence may have something to do with a gaggle of unfrozen Nazi zombies, left over from the Einsatzgruppe, a particularly nasty detachment of soldiers whose job it was to rob and murder Jews during the occupation. Inevitably, the zombies run wild on the students and its a maddening dash to survive amid gallons of blood and gore and wave after wave of hungry anti-semitic zombies.

Dead Snow somehow manages to commit more horror movie cliches in its entire running time than an entire decade of Hollywood produced horror movies. There is absolutely nothing new to see here and just when you think it couldn’t possibly be any more contrived, writer/director, Tommy Wirkola, stocks his movie with a character whose entire reason for being is to prove to you, an audience that may be marginally familiar with horror movies, that Wirkola knows what he’s talking about and has license to make the last word on zombies. He name checks and references movies that each one of us has been intimately familiar with since we were 12 years old. Wirkola is a part of a film school feedback loop that absolutely must be stopped at all costs. It would not surprise me in the least if I were to find out that picked up stakes and moved to Austin, Texas, and started cameoing in movies by Tarantino and Eli Roth. Rather than bring to you an original picture with a fresh take on zombies, Wirkola satisfies his teenage fantasies of being Fulci, Raimi and Tarantino all in one. He’s a fan first and a filmmaker second, which is unfortunate because he’s a good filmmaker with an eye for a beautiful shot. Dead Snow, being the cinematic bad idea in motion that it is, is actually a very well made movie with a tight pace. It’s just too bad that everything herein has been seen before in far better movies.

dead-snow-zombies1Wirkola’s cast is none too remarkable, either. They’re all your typical victims in waiting and keeping them straight is difficult since there are so many and not one of them is particularly interesting. I often found myself wondering if Actor X on the screen had just been disemboweled five minutes prior only to realize that this is actually Actor Y and he just looks a little like the dead guy. And what’s the point of keeping track of everyone since once the ball starts rolling, they’re all going to die anyway? Am I right? I can sense that many of you right now are thinking that I’m some kind of spoil sport and that I should probably take this a little less seriously because, hey, it’s just a zombie movie, right? Maybe I should relax a little. There’s plenty of good gags, actually. One hilarious joke involving a molotov cocktail and a scene where a bite victim solves his problems by severing body parts. There’s also a substantial pile of inestines and severed limbs to be found. For all of Wirkola’s storytellng flaws, he figured he could liberally toss around the gore in Peter Jacksonian proportions and get away with it and if that’s all you’re out for, you won’t be let down.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’ve seen a lot of zombie horror movies lately that strive to be nothing more than celebrations of bifurcation and offer you nothing more for your movie going dollar than buckets of blood and scenery lifted out of older, much better movies. Wirkola may as well just have painted his frames pop-up video style to point out which movies he lifted his scenery from. See guys, this one is from Dead Alive and this baby is taken straight ouf of Shaun of the Dead. Oh! And did you hear that? I just dropped a reference to Friday the 13th. Aren’t I savvy? I can hear you now, “Say it ain”t so, Bryan. It’s Nazis and zombies, dude! They’re like chocolate and peanut butter!” While that may be the case, Shock Waves did a much better job of it. And about those Evil Dead comparisons, can them. The end of the movie is an almost direct ripoff of John Carpenter’s The Fog.

Bryan White

Editor, Cinema Suicide

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http://www.cinema-suicide.com

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