Saturday, April 11, 2015

Dead Snow

1.5/4

Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henrikson, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Rosten, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Jenny Skavlan

Not Rated (Probable R for Strong Zombie Violence and Extreme Gore, Language, and a Sex Scene)

"Dead Snow" has become an underground cult hit, garnering enough attention and dollars to not only produce a sequel (not that that means much), but a chance for co-writer/director Tommy Wirkola to make it big in Hollywood (he directed the surprisingly well-received "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters").  Then again, so did Vincenzo Natali, and he directed "Cube."

The premise, a group of horny twenty-somethings running into a nasty group of Nazi zombies in the middle of the mountains, has a lot of potential.  A sort-of "300" meets "Dawn of the Dead" with the sensibilities of "Hatchet."  The problem?  The comedy.  More specifically, the lack thereof.  In an attempt to have his cake and eat it too, Wirkola forgets that he's making a horror comedy.  He takes the film far too seriously.  In fact, he repeatedly steals from "The Descent," including its unremittingly bleak tone.

Even as a simple horror movie, the film still doesn't work.  The characters are not only stupid (which is something of a requirement for the genre), but they're boring.  It's hard enough to remember who is who, much less give a damn whether they live or die.  The editing is haphazard, with characters suddenly appearing without rhyme or reason, or in one case, having a mounted machine gun without any explanation of where he got it.  Jump cuts and general sloppiness abound.  And while the term "deus ex machina" isn't explicitly mentioned in the film, everyone who watches it will become well aware of what it is by the time the end credits roll.

The film isn't even well-paced.  It takes forever to get going, and when it does, it's a bait-and-switch, becoming the very thing we were led to believe it was going to parody.

None of the actors are particularly memorable.  That's not uncommon in horror movies, but the audience has to be able to form some sort of bond with them.  But these people are totally deprived of personality.  The zombies exhibit more life and interest.

The film contains a considerable amount of gore.  In addition to the usual blood and viscera that fly everywhere (in amounts that probably exceed what is in a normal human body), we are treated to a zombie commander with a strange fetish for taking the end of a person's intestines and pulling it out in various ways (in one instance, we are treated to a sort of POV shot of the victim).  In a different movie, this might be gratuitous, but here it's only preventing the audience from falling asleep.

"Dead Snow" isn't devoid of humor.  There are some one-liners and gruesome gags sprinkled throughout (including one instance that will cause guys to wince), and by the end of the film Wirkola has pulled out all of the stops and has some fun with the premise.  But it's too little too late.

Maybe the sequel will be better.

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