Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)

EPSON MFP image

threehalfstar

campstamp

In my initial review I faulted the Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow for keeping its Nazi zombie antics under wraps until far too late in its runtime. There was plenty of over the top cartoonish gore to be had in the film’s third act, but for some reason the it pretended that the audience didn’t know exactly what was coming (despite the prominence of Nazi zombies all over its advertising) & kept its monsters concealed in the dark for as long as possible. Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead ditches the first films’ reluctance to immediately devolve into blood-soaked chaos & instead opts for a constant barrage of Army of Darkness-type gore gags from front to end. Even the opening sequence’s recap of the first film’s plot is little more than a flimsy excuse to rehash all of the gore that’s already come as a primer for the entrails, severed limbs, and copious gallons of blood soon to follow.

Despite its eagerness to please on the gore front, Dead Snow 2 surely has its own problems. In addition to occasionally uncomfortable caricatures of hot nerd girls & sexually ambiguous Eurotrash, the film also has a tendency to self-referentially pat itself on the back. Martin Starr’s turn as a self-proclaimed zombie hunter (read: nerd fantasy fulfilment in the flesh) is often a mere conduit for the movie to proclaim its own uniqueness, going so far as to explicitly say in the dialogue that they’re inventing a new zombie genre. This may be awkward, but in a lot of ways it’s difficult to disagree. Red vs. Dead is far from the by-the-numbers retread of films like Wyrmwood. I can at least personally attest to having never seen Nazi zombie surgeons, Nazi zombie priests, magical Nazi zombie arms grafted onto still-human hosts, or gasoline syphoned through a corpses’ intestinal track in a movie before, much less all in the same picture.

As awkward as Dead Snow 2 may be at times, it’s difficult to deny that it’s thoroughly more entertaining than its predecessor. Even the bro-culture politics & self-referential zombie genre discussions have their roots in the first entry, so it’s difficult to get too down on its crudeness on that front. A non-stop gore fest about Nazi zombies attempting to reclaim their stolen gold & completing long-forgotten marching orders from Hitler himself is not the place I would typically look for a moral beacon  or an absence of hubris anyway. This is a live-action cartoon in which undead Nazis mercilessly disembowel the living from the opening minutes until they’re finally stopped in their tracks just before the end credits. Even when they dismember children or the handicapped (very rare targets for horror films, for obvious reasons) it’s easy to dismiss the cruelty of that behavior in the context of the film. I mean, they are undead Nazis after all. If you can stomach (or even frequently seek out) this kind of blindly brutal, played-for-laughs mayhem in your genre films, there’s no doubt that you’ll have fun with the buckets of blood Dead Snow 2 sloshes at the screen. In my case, I enjoyed it even more than the first one, which pretended a little too hard to be more tastefully restrained that it truly was at heart. With the second entry, taste has thankfully gone out the window entirely.

-Brandon Ledet

Dead Snow (2009)

EPSON MFP image
three star
campstamp

There’s a critical flaw at the heart of the Norwegian horror comedy Dead Snow that keeps it from being the absolute classic Shaun of the Dead-style schlock send-up it comes so close to achieving. For some strange reason the film stubbornly likes to pretend that its audience doesn’t know what is coming. Despite the exact nature of its threat being spoiled in every last piece the film’s advertising, Dead Snow keeps its monsters in the dark for as long as possible. Anyone likely to watch the movie in the first place would presumably be interested solely because of the gimmick of its monsters, so withholding them from the screen doesn’t build tension. It feels more like treading water.

Since I’ve already hinted to the “surprise” in the illustration above & it’s much more explicitly laid out in the film’s promotional material, I’ll just go ahead & spill the beans. Dead Snow is about Nazi zombies. It’s a Nazi zombie horror comedy. Since most of the audience is already prepared for that premise from the get go, it becomes increasingly frustrating that we don’t see a zombie Nazi in full regalia until 2/3 into the film. As if the promo material weren’t enough to prime you for the “surprise” there’s an ominous monologue from a local yokel that spins a yarn about a bygone Nazi occupation & some stolen gold that sets up a Leprechaun type scenario where the doomed victims are bound to unwittingly “steal” some Nazi treasure that the undead fascists will undoubtedly come knocking for. When the first fully visible Nazi zombie appears on the screen I was expecting to shout “Awesome!” but instead it was more of a “Finally!”

Despite the little bit of pained effort it takes to get there, Dead Snow eventually delivers on its promise of Nazi zombie mayhem & the film devolves into some great splatter-soaked chaos. With references to films like Peter Jackson’s Braindead (aka Dead Alive) & every group-of-youngsters-murdered-in-a-cabin horror cheapie ever, Dead Snow is smart to go over the top once it finally delivers on its premise. Eyes are gouged, head are crushed, a vast army of undead Nazi scumbags are gunned down & ripped to shreds. It’s a truly fun release after a very slow build that unnecessarily tests the audience’s patience before it lets loose. I’m hoping that since the hammer has already fallen that the same mistake wasn’t repeated in the sequel, last year’s Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead. If it just would get to the good, bloody stuff a little quicker, a Dead Snow movie could easily go from “pretty good” to something much more special.

-Brandon Ledet