Now that Dead Snow has
been made, it's surprising to think that a movie about Nazi zombies
hadn't already been done. It's a top-notch gimmick that comes
to life here with a combination of jolts, gore, and, unfortunately,
derivative filmmaking. In large part an homage to the Evil
Dead series (which it directly references a number of times),
Dead Snow is not particularly innovative in terms of atmosphere
or technique. It has some fun with its premise, but only manages
to skim the surface of an idea rich with possibilities.
The plot, such as it is, follows
a trail blazed by innumerable films: A group of friends are vacationing
in a secluded cabin for the weekend. On their first night, a traveler
(whose presence in that remote part of Norway is unexplained) stops
at the house. Sensing the group's ignorance and youth, he informs
them that during World War II the Nazis had established an outpost in
the area. Eventually chased down by the locals, the unit froze
to death in the mountains. The visitor then leaves them to think
about the "evil presence" the Nazis left behind. The next
day, Vegard (Lasse Valdal) goes off on his snowmobile to find his girlfriend
Sara, who was expected to meet them at the cabin on foot. While
he's away, the group is attacked in the cabin by a roving horde of
Nazi zombies. The group splits up and spends the rest of the movie
fending off their undead attackers, while Vegard discovers their lair.
From here, thing move in a relatively predictable way, with the gory
stakes piling up higher and higher, like ever so much loose intestine.
Other than a few well-placed
shocks, not much unexpected happens in Dead Snow - from either
a plot or scare perspective. The story and characters are merely
perfunctory, and while that's to be expected of the genre, Dead
Snow fails to enliven the proceedings with the ample visual and
technical opportunities afforded by the lovely white mise en scène
of the wintry Norwegian countryside. The look is nice, but nothing
is done with it. Camera set-ups and movement are monotonous and
rote. Production design is sparse and unimaginative. Also,
I expected some humor from a film driven by such a tongue-in-cheek concept,
but there was none. I don't think I laughed once and don't
believe there were any intended "jokes" other than the clear references
to the Evil Dead films, which were much funnier than this one.
"Laughable" is not the same a funny, though; that term applies to
the bizarre sequence in which a lovely young woman has sex on the seat
of a frigid outhouse with a chubby man who has just shat there.
Still, the spectacle of Nazi
zombies feasting on the entrails of their victims had to be committed to film
at some point, and Dead Snow competently performs that crucial
service to world cinema. The costumes and make-up effects for
our troupe of villains work well. But the special effects dealing
with gore were clearly the focus of the crew; both practical and digital
effects take center stage as the blood begins to burst, jet, and flow.
There's nothing particularly surprising about the blood and guts in
Dead Snow, but they are disgusting, and a cleverer film could have
made something much more effective and memorable of its Nazi zombie
premise without spending half its limited budget on gross-out effects
that go nowhere. Dead Snow is decent, and should please
fans of the gore-and-viscera brand of horror, but it's also an example
of a cool idea wasted by filmmakers who just aren't really that interested
The enhanced 1.85:1 image looks good. The film has a high-contrast
look, with white snowy mountains and deep black nights. The transfer
is strong, with good fidelity and color balance throughout, and no defects
to speak of.
The Norweigan-language 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack is okay, but
has some glaring problems. For one thing, it's loud. I
had my amplifier at half its usual volume. Maybe I sound like
the crazy old man next door here, but the music (which is mostly bad
Scandinavian rock) is way too loud on the mix. Generally speaking,
sound effects are too loud, too. I understand the role of sound
in horror films, but this movie practically beats you to death with
its cacophonous scare tactics.
The DVD contains a second disc for all the bonus content. We start
off with Behind Dead Snow (18:36), a behind-the-scenes piece
that uses a lot of on-set video footage and interviews. Special
Make-Up Effects of Dead Snow (6:29) is a self-explanatory look at
the many false heads and entrails used in the movie. We also get
the Original Theatrical Trailer and the Teaser Trailer
(I'm listing these in menu order). Madness in the North!
(48:55) is a pretty thorough making-of doc that focuses on the film's
shoot in the far north of Norway. Madness in the West!
(17:52) follows the cast and crew to the Sundance Film Festival; it's
shot on home video and has an intimate feel. There is a very short
selection of Outtakes (2:04) and a brief look at the movie's
VFX (3:19). Burning the Cabin (1:00) covers the scene
the crew shot last. Finally, The Sounds of Dead Snow (5:41)
covers the creation of sound effects without revealing why the DVD mix
is so jarring.
Dead Snow leans heavily on a clever premise that never develops
beyond the level of a fun (but not very funny, as it turns out)
gimmick. The movie is gory, intermittently thrilling, and enjoyable
to a point. Mostly, it's a missed opportunity. Rent
Casey Burchby lives in Northern California: Twitter, Tumblr.