JULY 5, 2009
There are two reasons why I always put the source at the top of my reviews. First, it helps add weight to the “yes I am really watching one every day” thing. But more importantly, I honestly think the setting is important to the film’s success or lack thereof. Because I was baffled why so many of my friends disliked Dead Snow (Norwegian: Død Snø), when I (and clearly everyone else in the theater) had a lot of fun watching it. And then later it made sense, when I discovered that every single one of them saw it at home on bootleg DVDs, instead of in a theater.
Now, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to enjoy the movie unless you’re seeing it on the big screen. But if someone is watching it with a watermark, and talking with whoever’s with them, and probably dividing their attention between the film and their laptop, then sorry, I can’t really give their opinion much weight. Yes, the film starts off a bit slow and the characters are kind of generic. That’s part of the point, and I think it’s easily missed if you’re already bitching about the film’s merit. Because the way I see it, the movie is actually a hybrid of slasher and zombie film, and writer/director Tommy Wirkola is simply doing the same thing that Neil Marshall did with Doomsday - paying tribute to his favorite movies by tossing elements of them together into one goofy fun ride.
So yeah, maybe it’s “slow” for a zombie film, many of which have full blown attacks in their opening reel, but it’s structured EXACTLY like a slasher. We have an opening kill, then our teens are introduced, they get to their destination, a crazy local gives them (us) the backstory before getting killed, the next morning arrives, things get weird, and eventually our heroes are offed one by one. The villains may be Nazi zombies, but everything about the film screams slasher. Christ, the resident movie nerd guy even name-checks Friday the 13th (as opposed to Night of the Living Dead or whatever), just to help make it a bit more clear.
Note - the hot girl who inexplicably likes the movie nerd then mentions April Fool’s Day, but says it’s from 1984. I thought this was a setup, and he’d prove his nerdiness by correcting her and saying “1986”, but he doesn’t. So the only one that proved their nerdiness was me, I guess. Also she refers to it as “well-regarded”, which means she must read Horror Movie A Day and also my friend Matt’s BloodandSleaze.com, because I’m pretty sure we are the only two who like it.
I’ve also read reviews that complained about the lack of Nazi-ism to the Nazi zombies. So I guess they would prefer a zombie film where only Jews were eaten? Or conducting nonsensical experiments in between feeding on human flesh? What the fuck can they do? Like all zombies, they are merely re-animated corpses. Besides, they have more of a purpose than usual, as they seek their lost gold (shades of The Fog here) that was stolen from innocent people during WWII, and they’re also still in full uniform and even have a commander of sorts, so compared to generic zombies, they are far more three-dimensional than we are used to. Hell, even compared to other Nazi zombies they leave a lasting imprint; I’ll take these over the ones in Shock Waves any day of the week.
Now, one thing I can agree with is that the story-telling is a bit too loose at times. One guy has a machine gun all of a sudden - you would think that it’s too big of a plot point to come out of nowhere, but it does. Also, there is no real explanation for why the Nazis A. have come back to life and B. why they are doing so now. Our hero’s girlfriend lives in the cabin, so it’s not like they are the only people to have ever set foot there or something. And this is more minor, but Wirkola blows what could have been an even better scene by giving it to the wrong character. One of our heroes is repulsed by blood and actually gets sick at the sight of it. Later on, a different character suffers a massive neck injury and has to sew it up himself. It would have been way more queasy/awesome to have the blood-fearing guy do this, especially since the fear never really has any payoff for him.
Speaking of the injury, not one but two characters survive certain death only to come back and get killed for real later. It’s not the worst plot point, but it is an annoying one, as it gives a film the feeling that they aren’t in any real danger. Knock em off a cliff, nearly decapitate them, whatever... they’ll be fine. So to do it twice in one movie is a bit of a dumb call. Sure, both of their “real” deaths are great, but it’s not worth the groaning of seeing them alive again in the first place. And the very first one is at night, and it’s so dark that it’s hard to tell what is going on. I know that they were probably trying to hide the design of the Nazi zombies until later, but it’s hard to tell which one is the zombie and which one is the victim.
Back to those deaths though - oh man. The gore/effects in this movie are pretty awesome. A skull ripped in half (vertically), a guy that’s pulled apart in every direction, an axe through the head, self-cauterized arm stump, and (my favorite) a guy gets a piece of his intestine caught on a tree, keeps running another few yards, and then turns to see why he is “stuck”. Fuck yeah. The limited number of characters keeps the body count rather low for a zombie film (more like... wait for it... a slasher!), so at least they all have pretty great payoffs. They also kill out of the order you would expect - my pick for the first to die was one of the last, and the movie nerd guy is killed before he even gets to make any more movie nerd jokes beyond the ones that introduced him as the movie nerd guy!
The zombie rules aren’t well-established, but I didn’t have a problem with that. Every vampire movie that comes along has it’s own version of the “rules” (i.e. Twilight and their goofy sparkling vampires), so I don’t see why every zombie film has to follow the “only a shot to the head can kill it, you get bit you die” standard. Actually, another “this is more of a slasher” thing - none of the hero characters come back as zombies (of course, most of them are so dismembered that they CAN’T, but still), which is pretty rare.
It’s only playing in two theaters, so I can understand if you don’t get to see it until DVD. But Christ, give the movie (and all movies, for that matter) the benefit of a proper viewing, and let your patience and respect get rewarded. Even some of its biggest detractors admit the finale is a lot of fun; it’s just a shame they didn’t realize that most of what led up to it was just as enjoyable.
What say you?
P.S. The trailer’s use of "Ode To Joy" is not only awesome, but warranted! It’s in the movie too, however not used quite as epically.