I had very low expectations for 2009's Dead Snow, which could possibly be due to the fact that it was touted as a horror comedy and I was hoping for something a little more serious I guess. Many of the reviews I looked at were (and still are), for the most part, lackluster and the complaints about the film only ensured that I would more than likely hate it. As it turns out, those reasons that I should dislike Dead Snow are very much there, but for some reason, they didn't bother me all that much.
Directed by Tommy Wirkola, Dead Snow follows a group of medical students who take a trip to a secluded mountain cabin for a weekend of skiing and fun. Their good time is flipped upside-down when they are faced with the threat of vicious Nazis, but these aren’t Neo-Nazis were talking about here folks…nope, these are Zombie Nazis, straight out of (Compton!) WWII! Now, why would Zombie Nazis do something this uncalled for? Well, there's this conveniently (but well) told back-story where it’s explained that during WWII, a group of Nazis tried to steal valuables from the local people near the end of the war. The townsfolk took action into their own hands, attacking and killing many of the Nazis, and chasing the remaining ones into the frigid mountains, where it is thought that they all had froze to death. Since then, there have been many deadly and strange occurrences to happen in the surrounding area.
Now, Dead Snow is a Zombie film, but it really does not follow the structure of one, nor, outside of a few scenes, does it hardly ever feel like one. Instead, much of the film, especially the first half, follows the structure of a Neo-Slasher movie. I guess with the feel of a Neo-Slasher film mixed in with the snowy and secluded setting, Dead Snow has a lot in common with another well know Norwegian horror film, 2006's Fritt Vilt (better known in the States as Cold Prey). Both films have similarities, but are essentially quite different from one another, however, it is easy to compare the two in many ways but one, which is Dead Snow is less serious when it gets down to the nitty gritty.
Marketed as a horror comedy, Dead Snow is looked at and compared to films like Shaun of the Dead and the more recent, Zombieland. However, I would not consider it as much a horror comedy, as I would a fun horror movie with comedic moments. I don't think it tries to be as funny as the films just motioned and the humoristic elements seem to be more so at the film’s tail end, when the Undead-Nazis really make their presence known. When the attempts at humor are made, they work pretty well and there are some very funny moments that aren't too over the top and some that are slightly so. Things like a Nazi taking a bite out of one of the characters, only to come up with a mouth full of feathers from the heavy winter jacket. Or, a character that fights off an attacking Nazi while hanging off the edge of a cliff by the intestines of another Nazi. Pretty funny stuff.
Too many powdered jelly donuts?
Even though it's been done many times before, Dead Snow has a great setting and the surrounding winter wonderland is the perfect place for blood to be spilt. And there is plenty of blood, guts, brains, and even the before mentioned intestines, to satisfy the basic gore needs of some horror fans. However, one of the issues that I take with this film is the fact that there is a liberal use of CGI blood. Now, there are some great effects on display in Dead Snow and many of them look practical, so I don't really understand the need to put in the extra-extra fake blood. Only thing I could come up with is maybe the folks behind the movie wanted to bloody it up a little more after the fact, so they added in the CGI blood afterwards to meet their quota. Bad move.
Now, I already alluded to the fact that I liked Dead Snow, but there are plenty of issues with the movie outside of the CGI blood work. Besides the zombified Nazis, it's not a very original film at all. There is very little that we all haven't seen before, from the setting and the story, to the characters as well as the interaction of those characters. Then there is the one thing that can always irritate most any horror fan…self-referential horror characters and situations. There's a ton of self-referencing in this film, from conversations about Friday the 13th and April Fools Day, to a horror-nerd character wearing a Braindamage shirt, who also warns about certain situations and how they would play out in a horror film. Even some little moments like a trip to a tool shed for weapons, i.e. a chainsaw, are clearly inspired by Evil Dead II.
Still, the referential stuff wasn't completely annoying, even though I didn't really like it and it made me cringe a little, it did not ruin the movie for me. Maybe it was because the movie was subtitled, making it less obnoxious? I don't know, this entire film has stuff that would normally bother me, but with this film in particular, these things just didn't. Maybe my low expectations helped and I could have been in just the right mood to enjoy Dead Snow, but it could also be that it's a wicked fun movie, problems or not. It's very well made, with some great music, solid acting, and some very funny little moments. There are also a few standout scenes that display some serious talent, one being a buried alive scene, as well as a scene where a character wakes up from being unconscious, only to see through groggy eyes that they are being eaten alive.
I think the filmmakers behind Dead Snow did exactly what they set out to do and for the most part, they did it very well. They certainly did it much better than what was done with Cabin Fever 2. I can see many people not liking this film and to a point, I don't blame them. There was quite a bit of hype for Dead Snow and it doesn't live up to that hype whatsoever, but there is a lot of mindless fun to be had with the movie and it's certainly worth a watch with expectations in check.