For those of you who may not know, I have a serious love for anything involving the use of zombies or the undead. From movies to video games to literature, I am fascinated by how versatile they are in any storytelling medium. So imagine how excited I was when I first heard about a foreign zombie flick, taking place in the snowy mountains, that feature…(drum roll please)…Nazi Zombies.
Oh yes kids, it’s true. And you know what is even better? It is a superb horror flick.
Now, a little history. There have been some exploitation style movies, back in the 60’s, 70’s and I think even up until the 80’s, that have tackled the idea of having undead nazi soldiers, but most were completely and utterly terrible. I’m not talking “funny Ha-Ha get drunk with your friends and watch it” terrible. I’m talking bad to the point of nausea. For evidence of this, please see (read: download illegally for free) Zombie Lake. /End history lesson.
But enough wasted time establishing the immense uphill battle that Dead Snow faced, and let’s get on with the review. The plot of Dead snow is a simple one, but simple doesn’t imply that it isn’t well utilized and perfectly solid. Some 20 somethings are going on vacation, and decide to go up to a cabin in the snowy mountain woods. The “old crazy story teller guy” warns them of some old wives tale about soldiers who died in these woods surrounding the cabin. Of course, our 20 somethings, including a great “movie geek guy”, cast him off as a crazy local, and shortly there after, all hell breaks lose in the form, you guessed it, Nazi Zombies.
The magic of Dead Snow isn’t it’s plot though, it’s in the characters and the fantastically rewarding pace. The group of friends aren’t typical zombie fodder, there isn’t a clear cut stereotypical “slut”, nor is there the guy who is hopelessly in love with a girl he can never get, and there isn’t a clear “dick” character, who is rude and crass but painfully funny and accurate in his social observations. Instead, everyone character feels a bit more three-dimensional, they all seem to have a good, general sense of wit, and while they each have unique personality traits, like a knack for humor or a knowledge of movies, they come on as more than just TV sitcom characters who are helping to strengthen rigid stereotyping. Also, characters evolve, something rarely seen in horror today.
The pace is the second most important piece to the Dead Snow puzzle. From the opening scene, we are treated to classical music as a Jane Doe gets hunted down by our ruthless zombies at night. This is a great way to introduce people to the movie antagonists without spoiling there appearance, and combining it with a classic misdirection “boo” scare makes it all the more fun. There is no notion that in order to create good characters, that we the audience can relate to and invest in, we have to stare at them doing mundane things for 45 minutes. Dead Snow introduces everyone quickly, letting you adapt to their personal behavior and traits on the fly, all the while keeping the tension high by inventing some new and resurrecting some old classic boo scares. And when the well dries up on tension and suspense, the movie goes into absolute overdrive, providing the kind of kick ass orgy of violence only true horror can deliver.
The last thing I would like to touch on is the special effects. Minimal CGI means that lots of fake blood, limbs, and intestines get strewn all over the place, and the choreographing of the fight scenes is so tight and visceral, that it really helps bring you into the struggle. It’s a scrappy, survivor type of fighting, nothing fancy or cool about it. It’s a nice contrast to the modern day practice of ridiculously complicated and illogical battles between good and evil in horror movies, when instead you would just be reduced to dirty tactics and savagery in the case you were ever attacked by the undead.
So, in the interest of keeping this one short and sweet (just how I like my women) I will wrap this up by saying that Dead Snow has all the earmarks of the next big independent horror film, especially in the flooded sub-division of Zombie films. It shows an intimate knowledge and respect of its’ ancestors, most notably Raimi and Romero, but it also comes packing a slew of original ideas, as well as innovative implementations of standard tricks of the horror movie trade. It is unpredictable, direct, funny, unapologetic, and wholly satisfying.
It is at this point in time where you should be googling your ass off trying to find this flick.