A review for a movie like Dead Snow really doesn’t require more than those two words. You’ve already either exclaimed, “Hell, yeah!” or said, “Ewwww.” For what it’s worth, it’s the best movie I can imagine being made from the premise of Nazi zombies. It lives up to the expectations of revolting gore, low comedy, and appalling bad taste that I envisioned when I saw the trailer. So take that as a rousing endorsement or a stern disclaimer. You already know which camp you fall into.
In the interest of milking this piece for more than 89 words, I’d say that if Dead Snow is a typical example, Norway’s crap cinema has much that American B-movie producers can learn and grow from. It really helps to have a good cast. Not just a passable one, people who can actually do line readings with identifiable emotion and inflection. True, pictures like these don’t require thespian chops that cinema like Cries and Whispers demands, but you want a cast who’ll put their hearts into it and sell your story. Tommy Wirkola assembled a fine group of actors who really wouldn’t be out of place in an indie art film. Being part of Norway’s film scene, that’s where most of them are likely to end up next, anyway. They’re all good at making their characters amiable and giving them distinctive personality quirks, and they don’t make the fatal horror-comedy mistake of camping it up.
Dead Snow has awfully good production values for this sort of outing, too. You don’t see the cheap, slapdash look that too many domestic direct-to-DVD releases have, where you’d think that the movie was made by a director who’d just graduated from film school and scored a $20,000 loan from Uncle Henry. The location shooting looks terrific; Matthew Weston’s does a really fine job with the cinematography. Wirkola delivers some great action choreography and generates a level of tension and excitement you don’t often see from low-budget horror. Dead Snow’s climactic battle royale is pretty damned impressive, and there’s a thrilling duel to the death between a zombie and one of the vacationers as they dangle from a mountaintop clutching a… rope. Wirkola clearly knows his stuff – he’d make a fine action director if he ever chooses to explore that route.
Gorehounds won’t walk away disappointed. There’s plenty of the zombie mayhem you’ve come to know and love along with chainsaws and all the other essential sharp and pointy genre accessories. Wirkola, along with a top-flight effects crew, also craft some novel and ingenious bits of carnage that are sure to astound and delight zombie fans, particularly those who might not have pondered what havoc you could wreak with a snowmobile.
If you enjoy horror films along the lines of Sam Raimi’s and Peter Jackson’s early pictures, you’ll have a great time with Dead Snow. It’s funnier, more gruesome, and better by far than most genre entries, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find Tommy Wirkola building a large fan base. The man definitely has the goods.