Dead Snow (2009) is just what the doctor ordered. Amidst all the CGI-infested flicks that have come out lately, Norwegian writer/director Tommy Wirkola has delivered a good, fun, splattery zombie movie. And not just any zombies, but Nazi zombies.
The film starts with some one being pursued through the dark, snowy, Norweigian night by...something. She doesn't get far. The next day we see a group of medical students including Vergard (Lasse Vendal), Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Martin (Vegar Hoel), and Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), who are on their way to a remote cabin to enjoy some Winter outdoor fun and some indoor partying. A stranger passing by tells them of the evil that remains since the days of WWII; of a group of Nazis and their treasure. The young students of course write the man off as a loony, but when one of their group who was skiing to the cabin doesn't show, a search is made, and discoveries show that the strange man wasn't full of shit, and the group is in danger by the hands of a group of undead Nazi soldiers.
Dead Snow is a film that's very aware of its genre. One of the characters is a film buff, and even wears a t-shirt of Peter Jackson's blood-soaked Braindead(aka Dead Alive), and like Jackson's film,there's a good dose of humor along with the horror. There's the usual young folks partying and trying (and even succeeding) to get laid. There's an Evil Dead-esque scene when two of the students go to a tool shed and arm themselves for the inevitable zombie battle. However, Dead Snow isn't just a rip-off, or a simple love-letter to the genre. It stands on it's own, and though it may owe much to those that have gone before it, it has its own feel and style.
One of the elements that sets Dead Snow apart from other zombie films is the setting. There's quite a few shots of the beautiful snow-covered surroundings, which make an interesting counterpoint to the horror lurking just over the sonw-capped hills. It also reminds me of another Norwegian export, that being the musical genre known as Black Metal. Norwegian bands such as Emperor sing songs about the Norwegian night sky and the majesty of it, but the message is delivered in a brutal fashion. Maybe being in such a cold, beautiful place inspires artists in differing media. At any rate , it does make a nice change from the usual urban, pastoral farmhouse. and island settings usually seen in the zombie genre.
Nazi zombies have lumbered across the screen before Dead Snow. The 1977 film Shock Waves gave us some creepy aquatic Nazi zombies, along with veteran actor Peter Cushing. There was also the 1966 feature The Frozen Dead, which had Nazi scientists keeping parts of soldiers alive for nefarious reasons. The undead soldiers of Dead Snow are appropriatley scary, especially their leader, whom has a great scene towards the end of the film when our heroes think that the laeder is the only remaining zombie(hint: they're very wrong).
Another nice difference is that the protagonists are characters I actually felt for...I cared about their survival, unlike the idiots populating most horror films. I usually find myself rooting for the 'villian'. There is one scene in particular (which I won't divulge) that is tragic, and it happens on the heels of a run of fun, zombie-killing antics, which makes it all the more horrifying, and brings home the fact that these poor folks aren't playing a game; they're fighting for survival, and death is a very real outcome for them all.
All in all, Dead Snow is a damn good film. It's referential without ripping off , it's funny , tragic, bloody, and ridiculous at times. Simply put, it's a great little horror film, and it's just what we horror fans need, not more damn remakes. I tell you, the U.S. horror film product is getting its collective ass kicked by our foriegn friends. Go see it, already.