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Dead Snow

Dir: Tommy Wirkola

Rating: 2.5

IFC Films

90 Minutes

Though Sam Raimi has attempted to turn back the clock with the recent, much-feted Drag Me to Hell, perhaps Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow is a more suitable heir apparent to the Evil Dead splatterfest crown. Sure, the characters in this Norwegian import about Nazi zombies discuss Raimi’s films, but it’s the mordant sense of humor combined with enough blood and entrails that will satisfy an abattoir employee. Yes, you read that correctly: Nazi zombies.

Do you ever hear about the premise of a film and just wish and pray that it’s going to be something special? Just imagine the moment someone conceived the story of a group of young skiers dispatched by the remnants of a phantom Nazi cadre in the pristine Norwegian wilderness. Unfortunately, the execution is no way near as brilliant as the idea.

As per horror film standard, a group of attractive young adults venture to a remote location. They make jokes, want to fuck one another, toss off casual facts that will later figure into the film, meet an eerie local who warns them about an “evil presence” and then get butchered. Have you seen any movie such as this before? I understand that horror films operate on similar tropes, but a truly exceptional one will either control them or break away. Wirkola clearly has no problems allowing the tropes to control him.

This isn’t to say the film is not worthwhile. Both humans and zombies are dispatched in amusing manners. Unfortunately, Dead Snow just is not scary. The gore is slapstick, the violence is cartoonish. I always maintain that the best horror films manage that delicate balance between the comedic and the horrific. When crossing too far into either territory, the execution just feels off, just as when Wirkola firmly decides this movie will be a comedy with guts.

Still, Wirkola opts to let his zombies run amok mainly during the daylight. Whether or not this is a wise decision depends on your level of disbelief. The make-up is mediocre at best. The zombies are a waxy grey and along with some obvious green-screening they reveal a limited budget. But by removing the zombies from the usual requisite cover of nightfall, Wirkola ups the camp factor even more.

It is very likely that Dead Snow will burgeon into a cult classic. It certainly bests similar shit made by Eli Roth or that recent Friday the 13th disaster. The film does feature a fantastically gory showdown between three protagonists and the majority of the zombie corps. It is too bad the zeal so evident in that one scene is not replicated for the rest of the running time.

I’m going to go out on a limb and call The Descent the most effective, recent horror film I’ve seen. Where I had hoped Wirkola and Dead Snow would match the claustrophobic darkness of Neil Marshall’s film, he decided to go off in the direction of camp and gore instead. It is obvious Wirkola possesses a firm knowledge of the horror film canon. Unfortunately, Dead Snow will barely register as a splatter.

by David Harris

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