Dead Snow marks the second horror film with subtitles seen here at the 2010 FEFMSSOMS: first was Spanish-speaking virus-zombies in the excellent [REC], and now Norwegian-speaking frostbitten Nazi zombies. We are nothing if not multicultural! However, if I were to say to you, "Norwegian-speaking frostbitten Nazi zombies," your initial thought would not be *zzzzzzzsnoozezzzzzzzzz*. But it should be, unfortunately - the first hour of this 91 minute movie is s l o o o w.
Seven Norwegian medical students - four guys and three girls - head off to the snowy hills deep in fjord-country to stay for a weekend at an eighth medical student's family cabin. That girl never meets up with her friends though because whilst she is cross-country skiing through the rolling hills, a bunch of Nazi zombies eat her up. (Technically she's running through the rolling hills, having lost her skis trying to escape.) Then the Nazi zombies make their way to the cabin to eat people up there too.
Finally, for the last half hour, all hell breaks loose and it is non-stop, gooey, gory, blood-soaked zombie-kills and zombie-killing carnage - fun if you've managed to stay awake until then. These are not your typical flesh-eating shamblers: these are organized, higher-functioning zombies who use weapons and take direction from their leader, the zombie kommandant or some such (he's got a fancy hat is what makes him the leader). If I'm ever in a zombie apocalypse, I do not want to be up against these guys - they are just too smart and motivated.
I had a couple issues with Dead Snow. The subtitles weren't a factor, although they did sort of disappear during scenes where everyone was talking at once. I didn't worry about missing any scintillating dialogue though - there wasn't any that I noticed. The fact that the characters were all paper-thin and/or caricatures wasn't a problem either as I've overlooked that in other movies that had enough going on to make up for it. But this movie just didn't have enough going on for two-thirds of its running time. For a Nazi zombie movie, there should be more scenes with Nazi zombies. If the movie is weak, you have to make up for it with lots and lots of zombies throughout the movie, not just the last half hour. Just sayin'.
Dead Snow also doesn't really know what it wants to be. At times it was channeling Scream, with characters discussing their favorite horror movies and then breaking Scream's rules by having sex in the outhouse and them promptly getting eaten up. (By the way: sex in an outhouse = NASTY.) At other times it could have been a serious zombie movie: the zombies looked great, especially since they'd been hanging around in those hills since the villagers chased them out of the village in WWII, and the zombie vs. human violence, once it kicked into gear, was outstanding. And then sometimes it seemed like it wanted to be a horror-comedy: one kill had a zombie ripping a med student's head in half the long way (super-fake but in a funny way), with the newly liberated very fake brain flopping with a splat onto the floor.
A little more focus, a little more even pacing and a little more depth of character would have boosted Dead Snow out of mediocrity and into exemplary Nazi zombie movie territory. It's too bad - it should have been awesome.
Next: back to the classics with The Thing!
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