Dead Snow: When Nazi zombies attack!
(This review might include some mild spoilers about how the plot unfolds, so proceed at your own risk.)
What's scarier? Nazis or zombies? What about Nazi zombies? That seems to be the brainstorming premise of Dead Snow (Død snø), a 2009 Norwegian film that presents a squad of undead Nazi soldiers terrorizing a group of young medical students spending the Easter holidays at a remote cabin in Øksfjord.
Considering the perception most people have about Nazis and zombies, the subject matter seems ripe for use. As a matter of fact, I'm surprised something like this hasn't been done more often outside of the cult genre. In the eyes of most people, Nazis have been the most evil military force that humanity has had to deal with. The Nazi Regime in Germany is attributed with the death of millions of people, most of them Jews, as a result of their anti-semitic ideology. Zombies, on the other hand, could be one of humanity’s most latent recent fears. As ludicrous as it might seem to some, the possibility of a zombie apocalypse has become a real fear to a lot of people, and lots of them live getting ready for such an event.
Another interesting point are the inherent similarities between Nazi ideology and zombie mythology. When asked about the general Nazi ideology regarding what they called the Final Solution against Jewish population, Germany's Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, said that Hitler was "determined to clear the table" and that the war would bring the Jews' "own destruction". Compare that with what writer Max Brooks said about zombies on his best-selling novel, World War Z: "Other monsters may threaten individual humans, but the living dead threaten the entire human race... Zombies are slate wipers."
However, the film cares little about the political or social implications of its lead subjects, and rarely takes advantage of its implications, other than showing cool zombies in cool Nazi uniforms. Instead, it focuses more on horror, gore, and humor. That isn’t inherently bad, but don't look here expecting a thought-provoking analysis of either Nazi ideals or zombie mythology cause you'll be disappointed. As a matter of fact, the story draws more from the Scandinavian folk tale of the “draugr”, than it might draw from its Nazi subjects.
The "draugr" is an undead creature that wants to protect its treasures from others. In Dead Snow, the squad of Nazi zombies rise from the dead to protect the treasures they looted from a nearby village back when they occupied the region during World War II. The treasures, which are hidden in the basement of the cabin where our young travelers are staying, are discovered by one of them which sparks the rise of the undead soldiers. In that, the film feels also like an Evil Dead rip-off, or homage, whatever you want to call it. You know, group of young people in a cabin, they find something mysterious in the basement, and end up being terrorized by undead creatures, and all that. There's even a bigger nod to Raimi's classic in the climax involving one of the main characters and a chainsaw.
Ironically, I’m not a huge fan of Raimi’s film, but I enjoyed this Nordic take quite a bit. The film starts off more as a typical teen/horror film, where it has some of its best jump-scares. But as it progresses, it starts getting more and more quirkier and crazier. I actually think that that gradual progression of its tone helped me ease more into it as opposed to having it in my face from the start. The film also had some pretty good and effective moments of both gore, horror, or just pure terror. Two well-directed scenes come to mind: one was a particularly effective, claustrophobic moment with a character buried in snow, and the other was a horrific way to wake-up by yet another character. These two moments were pretty well-handled and directed by Tommy Wirkola.
As for the character themselves, none of them really stands out that much. There are some typical clichés within them: there's a hunky guy, a comic relief guy, etc. but the film manages to shed the stereotypes as it goes on. The performances aren't bad, but they're not great either. If anything, the best performance comes from Bjørn Sundquist, who plays the wanderer that warns the young ones about the place. But kudos also to Vegar Hoel (Martin) and Stig Frode Henriksen (Roy) who probably have the best moments from the lead bunch. The leader of the Nazi squad, Herzog, is portrayed by Ørjan Gamst; but there is nothing outstanding about his performance other than cool make-up and looking menacing.
But then again, I don't think anyone will come to this expecting Oscar-caliber performances or a thought-provoking script. Those that come to it expecting to see Nazi zombies and lots of gore won't be disappointed. Overall, I thought the film was effective as both a horror film and as a quirky comedy. I jumped a couple of times, and chuckled a couple others. What more can I ask from a horror comedy? Grade: B-
Dead Snow Trailer
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