Snow, Blood, Nazis 

'Dead Snow' is a by-the-book horror film—a third of which is entertaining!

Paint-by-numbers pieces can be beautiful, in their own way. And there's nothing inherently wrong with making a formulaic movie.

So if you're willing to tolerate a completely by-the-book horror movie—one that knows itself to be utterly derivative—and you like the genre, and you're between the ages of 14 and 36, and are male, and know the names of the gaffers and best boys of every 1980s slasher movie, you'll probably enjoy Dead Snow. It's got decent, Evil Dead-inspired action, and the bad guys combine Nazism with zombism, which is kind of like putting a flower on a unicorn.

The film starts with seven young people hiking to a cabin in the woods. They have no phone, good skin and an active interest in having sexual relations on camera before being dismembered by the living dead. As they trudge toward their doom, they discuss the fact that they're re-enacting the opening to a lot of young-people-dying-in-the-woods movies, but then they go ahead and do it anyway, because that's what stock characters do.

One of them is a movie nerd who provides helpful expository dialogue on the film's plot; another is a bad-ass who apparently was in the Norwegian army's zombie-fighting division; one's a doctor who's afraid of blood; and, of course, there's the charmingly slutty girl who gives her life for our entertainment. Good people.

Also, since they're Norwegians, they're taller and have better health care than we do, though that won't matter much once the zombies attack. But it's good to know.

Once they arrive at their snowy cabin, a mysterious older man shows up to narrate the film's backstory, as mysterious older men are wont to do. It seems that during World War II (the last really decent war with Roman numerals), a squad of Nazis occupied a nearby village. As the Russians advanced, the Nazis stole all the local gold, and then, I don't know, turned into zombies or something. So watch out: Nazi zombies.

Of course, forewarned about the presence of flesh-eating, gold-mongering, anti-Semitic undead, the characters nonetheless do the sorts of things that young people do, like play Twister and experience underpants-feelings of lust. Then they give out plot points in dialogue, which is helpful of them. Like, one of them says he's going to tell a joke featuring poop, semen and urine. And then the camera cuts away to the outhouse, where the movie nerd is pooping and urinating, and before he can rise from the toilet, the slutty girl mounts him, leading, one assumes, to the expulsion of semen. Although, later, heads will be split open, and eyes will be gouged out, this toilet-sex scene is the only really offensive part of the film. Not because two people are expressing their human sexuality in the most beautiful way possible (boinking on a toilet seat), but because the young lady, not realizing that the young man has just wiped his ass and has not yet washed his hands, puts his finger in her mouth. That's supposed to be funny, but there's nothing funny about poor hygiene. Of course, since both characters in that scene broke the cardinal rule of post-Halloween horror movies and had sex on camera, they're sure to be punished for their lack of attention to safe finger-licking practices.

After that, the movie is all about the violence and the head-splitting and the removing, unspooling and creative use of intestines. But the violence is played for laughs, with plenty of references to Evil Dead. This is the biggest Evil Dead rip-off since Evil Dead 2. They even cop the scene in which Ash cuts his own hand off, and there is a lot of chainsaw-chopping of dead people who are, in fact evil, thus: evil dead.

It's in the violence that the film becomes somewhat entertaining. The buildup, even though it's self-consciously derivative, isn't interestingly derivative. But once you've got a bunch of skiers, a snowmobile and dead Nazis all going at it in a winter wonderland, things are almost guaranteed to go well. Just think of how many ways you can kill someone with a snowmobile, and then put a swastika on it, and you have the formula for an amusing half-hour or so. Of course, Dead Snow is 91 minutes long, so that's not quite enough to redeem it. But if you want to listen to a Norwegian-metal soundtrack while looking at gorgeously photographed, snow-capped, blood-spattered mountains, Dead Snow is your only option this time of year, unless you want to travel to the Andes and kill goats while accompanied by the members of Borknagar and Darkthrone, which, trust me, you don't.

Dead Snow
Rated NR · 88 minutes · 2009
Official Site: www.deadsnow.com
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: Vegard Hoel, Stig Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Evy Rösten, Jenny Skavlan and Örjan Gamst


More by James DiGiovanna


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What others are saying (2)

Charleston City Paper Red on White We know certain things about zombies, based on decades of monster movies. One, that they just keep coming, no matter how many of them you kill. And two, that one bite from a zombie mouth dooms the victim to joining their ranks. by Felicia Feaster 09/02/2009
Pittsburgh City Paper Dead Snow In Tommy Wirkola's horror comedy, these undead baddies have taken up residence in the Norwegian mountains. The film follows the genre's classic set-ups and execution: A group of students from the city hike to a remote cabin to enjoy a weekend boozing and goofing off, only to be systemically picked off by hungry, zombified Nazis still angry about their treatment during World War II. Yet despite its dusty origins, Dead Snow feels fresh and fun. Wirkola's flick is full self-referencing nods to the genre's conventions, it's well filmed and the action moves at a brisk clip. Also notable is the setting: The scenery -- all those pristine, wintry alpine vistas -- is gorgeous, and soon enough, gore-geous. (Loose entrails really stand out in the fresh snow.) Then there's the novelty of seeing heads roll while people are shrieking in another language. Regardless, for a decent blast of B-movie zombie mayhem, this is a winner. In Norwegian, with subtitles. Mon., Oct. 5, through Thu., Oct. 8. Harris (AH) [3 out of 4 stars] by Al Hoff 10/01/2009

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