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Review: Dead Snow

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What could have been. Photo courtesy IFC Films.

There are plenty of movies out there that pay homage to their forefather films, those exceptionally well made pieces that stand the test of time and help to define a genre. However, this is perhaps seen nowhere more than in horror film vein, where hat-tips to the Evil Deads, the Braindeads, and even the Shaun of the Deads are practically mandatory. But these exist for a very specific reason: those movies kick ass.

Unfortunately, problems arise when a film starts to rely pretty heavily (or sample unabashedly) from its predecessors, leaving little new and innovative foundation for the feature to stand on. Instead, you’re more likely to get a weak ‘homage’ piece that is chock full of re-imagined classic shots and cinematic device patchwork that don’t quite leave you warm and fuzzy. And as promising as the trailer has looked - and with hordes of zombie Nazis bum rushing two armed men over classical music, it looked amazing - the hard-to-swallow truth is that Dead Snow is one giant, underwhelming gladhand to the films that have come before it.

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The synopsis to Dead Snow is pretty standard old slasher fare: a group of youngsters isolate themselves in a small cabin that happens to be surrounded by evil. They are warned, they don’t listen, and eventually they start getting picked off one by one in a series of seat-gripping and sometimes completely absurd ways. Maybe someone survives, maybe no one does, but there is a last gasp attempt to fight back, and a depth to the evil that no one has previously realized. Again, basic stuff. Even the idea of Nazi zombies, while awesome (and well made in the film) is not new. And all of this would be fine, perhaps could even be a welcome respite to the gross-out ‘gorror’ Saw series, or any other bloodporn film out there. That is, if it weren’t so terribly executed.

OK, here is the part of the review where I geek out a little bit, so if you don’t want to imagine me frothing at the mouth as I type this, skip to the next paragraph. OK, still with me movie nerds? Good, because we need to talk, about zombies. There’s two kinds of zombies, right? There’s the evil undead, the Dawn of the Dead type that are slow moving but relentless, pushed on by a higher (or lower) force in search of brains and some groaning sense of accomplishment. They aren’t bogged down by the science of staying alive, they’re motivated by evil. Then there’s the infected zombies, right? The 28 Days Later type who have fallen victim to some government conspiracy or lab rat escape. These guys are fast, not altogether mindless, and are very contagious - so don’t get bitten or bled on. But, because they don’t take as fantastical an approach, they seem to be bound by at least basic biological laws that say, eventually, these guys will all die out if you can just stay alive long enough. Well, the Nazi zombies inhabiting the snowy Norwegian hills of the film seem to think they can have their flesh and eat it too, and that’s bullshit. You either exist until your head is gone, but you’re slow as fuck and you always eat your victims, or you’re lightning fast with any killing method you please, but your body is unsustainable. For the zombies of Dead Snow, they are quick and healthy despite being covered in snow for decades, they don’t really even care about eating their victims, and they’re sort of contagious but it doesn’t matter even if they are. In short, these zombies suck.

Dead Snow seems to be trying far too hard to wink at those films around it that have really expanded the horror/slasher flick genre, while not doing nearly enough to make its own strides. The writing is inconsistent and nonsensical at times, while the vast majority of the effects are poorly executed and clumsily inserted. The zombies themselves, however, look fucking awesome, and it’s a shame they couldn’t be used more effectively. So if you’ve seen the Dead Snow trailer, do your best to try to end it there, so you can have a peaceful place in your heart for a what could have been a great movie, but instead has been sodden by too much reverence and not enough execution.

Dead Snow is currently playing with English subtitles at Laemmle's Sunset 5, 8000 Sunset Blvd.