A Trip To The Movies – Review: ‘Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead’ 10.16.14

I practically almost made the mistake of choosing not to see this one in the theater. As it was only playing for 6 days at one of the local cinemas here in town that show rare, harder to find films that mostly go unnoticed by the general populace. What sealed the deal was revisiting the first one and watching the DVD extras. In it there’s a “From East To West” segment, that showed writer/director Tommy Wirkola and the group of actors flying from Norway to Utah to premiere the first film at the Sundance Film Festival back in 2009. What they captured was the uproarious audience reveling in all of the chaos and mayhem that was going on on screen. It didn’t look like there was a single member in the audience who didn’t look like they were enjoying the hell out of what they were witnessing on screen. A similar experience that I had with the first film except, unlike them, I had missed seeing it in the theater and wound up watching it on DVD on my own. Without a captive audience. I thought to myself well, given how much I loved the first installment and how much fun it looked like seeing it in a packed house had, I’m going to make a game time decision to see it on its last day at the last showing of the night. After some ramblings on with the person I bought the ticket from. Who had apparently really liked it and appeared disappointed at her employer’s decision to shut it down after one week (apparently it didn’t do very well in terms of ticket sales) I sat down and watched after one person after the next pile into the theater and knew I was in for a treat. As it seemed like the only way to see this type of film – with an audience.

The second one picks up from exactly where we left off with the first. Except in traditional sequel fashion, Wirkola throws us a quick montage of the series of events that transpired in the first. Martin, the only remaining survivor from the first, manages to escape a horde of Nazi zombies but gets into an accident. Through a white gaze we see him waking up in a hospital. Apparently Martin survived the accident and comes out uninjured. That is until the doctors tell him that they’ve gone ahead and reswen his amputated arm that he lost in the first. Not only that, but they’re pinning on h the murders that occurred in the first film. I mean after all, who in their right mind would believe he lost it because of Nazi zombies? Meanwhile, Colonel Herzog is back with force, and realized that he now holds a new gift. One that should ensure his agenda of complete and total Nazi zombie takeover. Martin also realizes he also has a new gift (or curse?) with his new reswen arm. He manages to escape in a scene of both absolute hilarity and depravity. Only to wind up at a WWII museum. That holds something that Colonel Herzog and his band of Nazi zombies want. Enter in the “Zombie Squad”. A group of rag tag zombie hunting wannabes who are about as novice as they come. Still, they hear of Martin’s situation of trying to fiend off zombies, and consider it their god given duty to fly from America to Norway to help. Both they, Martin, and the Norway police all band together and come up with a plan to reawaken the Russian soldiers from the dead to help them fight off the Nazi zombie clan. And that’s really when the fun starts, and an all out war ensues.

This movie is about as much fun as movies get. For those who are fans of the genre of course. If Wirkola brought his 70% arsenal the first go ahead, this time he goes all out. And proves why he is the reigning champ of the post-aught horror-comedy genre. Wirkola takes every first admenment right of what we’re allowed to show in film, and gives a big middle finger to censorship. If you thought the first one was sick. You really have no idea what you’re in for with the second. It purposefully chooses to go leaps and bounds above the first one, and presents us with something that’s equally as funny, demented, and balls to the wall sick, as filmmaking possibly can go. As if you thought you saw it all in the first one, this one has Nazi zombies wrecking havoc by pretty much any means possible, on the unsuspecting local townspeople. Wirkola raises it a notch with the level of over the top violence. A feat that I honestly didn’t think was achievable coming off the first. The main difference between this one and the last, is that if the first one relied more on its horror leanings, this one is far more on the comedy side. And effectively does so might I add. The last 20 minutes is complete and absolute insanity. With a German vs. Russian fight finale that rivals anything that we were shown in both 1996’s “Braveheart” or 2002’s “Gangs of New York”. That, and just when you think things are finally over. Wirkola hits the audience with an ending montage of a familiar classic rock background song that’s pure comedic genius and had the entire audience clapping when the house lights came on. Despite its more intentional comedic and sillier leanings, which I can’t see everyone liking, this is about as good as horror sequels go. Or better yet, sequels in general. A must see especially for fans of the first.

Grade: strong B

Looking Back On: ‘Dead Snow’ (2009) 10.15.14

As we enter the second half of October in the final 2 weeks leading up to Halloween, you’re going to start noticing some new changes to the site. One is a “Spotlight On” section featuring specific directors whom I admire and the other being a “Looking Back On” focusing on older films that I’ve seen and recently revisited. Many of which leading up to Halloween will be horror films. A genre that if done correctly is probably my favorite of them all. First up is the granddaddy of the horror-comedy genre. One that I’ve seen probably a dozen times and each viewing gets better and better than the last. Tommy Wirkola’s genius 2009 “Dead Snow”. I remember it vividly like it was yesterday when I first saw the trailer for it prior to it coming out and my initial reaction was wow. “Nazi zombies are awakened from the dead to prey on a group of unsuspecting vacationers”. I’ve seen just about everything but I’m not sure I can quite put my finger on something like that. I watched and rewatched the trailer over and over again. Then when it was time where I actually was able to finally sit down and see it, it was if all of my dreams for how I had hoped it would turn out had come true. This Norweigian delight has just about everything for fans of the genre. But in order to discuss it with any sort of fair amount of credibility. One has to mention the film that preceeded it and has had more influence on the genre than any other film of its kind. That being Edgar Wright’s brilliant and incredibly influential 2004 film “Shaun of the Dead”. What’s really in most film circles considered to be the granddaddy of the post-aught horror-comedy genre. I personally think “Dead Snow” takes the cake though. Because for someone like me it’s almost like a Master’s level piece within the genre if you look at it right.

The basic premise is a simple one. And just expands on the tagline I already mentioned above. A group of medical students on winter break decide to take a trip to the mountains to go skiing. Their seemingly normal vacation starts out fun enough – they go inner tubing, play Twister, and drink beer. A typical college break. That is until one night they meet a weary old traveler. He informs them that (get this) – During the Second World War, the grounds their cabin is on was a gateway for the German army. That and it’s where they stored all of their riches in gold coins (yep). The opposing enemy eventually invaded and a Colonel by the name of Herzog (an obvious nod to the German director Werner) and a group of followers escaped into the mountains. Cut to the present, next day, and the vacationers find a treasure chest (uh huh) of gold and silver. This is when the fun really starts.

What impresses me so much about this film is how Wirkola (only 30 years old at the time the film was released) seems to be in complete control of every aspect of the film. The difference between this and say “Shaun of the Dead”, a film I referenced earlier, is that this movie does everything that could possibly be done right from a cinematic stand point, on an incredibly small budget. Sure a lot of it looks cheap and fake yes, but that’s all part of the point. Wirkola knows it does, but he revels in mastering everything that he has control over, which is all of the aspects of the film – one of which I find to be one of the best location decisions I’ve seen in horror. Filming all the chaos and madness against a pure white snowy backdrop is highly effective and an absolutely perfect choice for setting. Second, the music plays a pivotal role in that we get everything from old classical style music “The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies” (which takes on new meaning) as well as Norwegian punk and metal music that’s infused into it. In many ways it can be looked at as a “punk rock horror film” as it totally goes all out balls to the wall and gives a big middle finger to everything that anyone could even conceivably think of as censorship. Nothing and I mean nothing about this film holds back even in the slightest. There’s a little something for any horror movie lovers delight: from decapitations, to chopped off limbs, eye gouging, brain splitting, intestine cliffhanging (oh yeah), the ripping off, biting off, and pulling off of skin, head smashing, self amputation, all with chainsaws, mowers, hammers, and shotguns. Literally every possible limb on the human body is torn to pieces at one point or another during this movie. It’s probably the goriest, bloodiest, and all out crazy horror-comedy film that I’ve seen next to maybe Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead 2” (1987) or Peter Jackson’s “Dead Alive” (aka “Braindead”) (1992). This is a must see for fans of the genre. And one, in front of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”, earns my coveted #1 slot of the best horror-comedy I’ve seen since the year 2000.

Grade: A-