Dead Snow | Horror/Comedy | rated R (A,L,S,V,G) | In Norwegian with English subtitles | 1:31 mins
A group of medical students retreat into a mountain cabin for a week of drinking, snow ball fights and hooking up. When a wandering stranger shows up to tell them the story of that town’s history of Nazi occupation during World War II, it is only the start of the madness. Soon an army of swift undead Nazi zombies descend on the cabin, forcing the students to fight for their lives.
Dead Snow starts out like every other horror movie and horror comedy and horror parody I’ve seen recently. Specifically Cold Prey but also Friday the 13th, Severance, One Eyed Monster and a few like Evil Dead that the movie’s movie geek character himself references when Snow points out this cliche. The isolated cabin is a well-worn set-up. But calling out it’s own cliches – as it also does when the group can’t get a signal and they call out the phone by brand name – doesn’t make Dead Snow a great film. No, what makes it a great horror/comedy is a finely tuned tonal balance between the horror and the comedy and a wicked imagination when it comes to an already different and delightfully ridiculous premise. Since Shaun of the Dead the zombie comedy has been a popular subgenre for aspiring low budget filmmakers. The Norwegian Dead Snow is a blast of a zomedy, deserving to rank with the UK’s Shaun and the American Zombieland as high marks of this relatively new subgenre.
The crucial difference between Snow and the two other zomedies is that they were both essentially comedies with horror movie elements, spurts of violence. Snow has a different and dare I say more effective and precise tone. It is a horror movie with spurts of comedy. I’ve never quite seen a horror/comedy get as dark as Snow does. Starting out as wacky as any of the other movies, it slowly sheds it’s jolly good times for a hopeless downhill slide in which it’s characters careen toward their most unlikely fates – which include a few very creative and surprising deaths. Dead Snow is one heck of an unpredictable ride.
The movie is rough around the edges. Very often an apparent low budget rears it’s ugly head to distract us. Most special effects and kill sequences are stitched together out of 2 or 3 shots. Nothing is shown to us in a full screen one-shot scope making the movie feel confined and cobbled together. It’s an unavoidable technicality that just shows the movie’s rough edges but also invention with the editing. Sill once you notice it you can’t un-notice it. But elsewhere the movie is well shot and constructed. The score is also dead-on from a Kubrickian opening that sets the quirky tone perfectly.
Dead Snow just delivers. It is as exciting, funny, quirky and gruesome as a movie about uniformed zombie Nazi’s who can pop out of the snow and grab you promises to be. And more. It is put together despite a clear budget constraint with imagination, a horrific horror movie tone and a sense of humor that is genuinely funny. The laughs come from the characters, are well delivered, sharp, without being cheesy or too self-referential. Basically, I love that Dead Snow doesn’t give up. It takes a wacky concept as seriously as it needs to without devolving into camp it so easily could have. It’s an all around terrific macabre piece of work. Not to be missed for genre fans.