The main thing “Dead Snow” wants you to know is that it’s a splatter film about Nazi zombies. You like zombies, and Nazis add kitsch value, so you’re sold. But once you get past the relative novelty of it (they’re ZOMBIES, but they’re also NAZIS!!), “Dead Snow” is only so-so. The only thing that separates it from the zombie movies you’ve already seen is that it’s in Norwegian.
It’s from director Tommy Wirkola, who, with co-writer Stig Frode Henriksen, had a huge hit in Norway with the 2007 Tarantino parody “Kill Buljo.” “Dead Snow” offers more proof of Wirkola’s fondness for Tarantino, and you get the feeling he’s seen plenty of Sam Raimi and George Romero, too. Those are all good ingredients, but without some kind of new spice all you’re doing is serving leftovers.
Hungry now? Good. Let’s talk about flesh-eating zombies. These ones are Nazi officers and soldiers whose frozen bodies, long hidden beneath the snow of Norway’s hinterlands, have now been reanimated for reasons that Wirkola barely bothers to explain. Their victims are a group of college students who have trekked to a remote cabin for a weekend of wintertime merriment.
The cabin belongs to Sara (Ane Dahl Torp), whose fate we learn in the film’s prologue. Her boyfriend, Vegard (Lasse Valdal), leads the other six potential victims to the place, expecting Sara to arrive on her own before long. The only character with any distinguishing personality traits is Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), a movie geek whose purpose is to mention a few horror movies that also involve remote cabins. This is apparently done on the assumption that if “Dead Snow” acknowledges its sources (primarily “Evil Dead”), we won’t get mad at it for borrowing from them.
The fun begins when the Nazi zombies start attacking, with Wirkola competently recreating the scary-funny excitement of the movies he clearly loves. He also runs through most of the cliches of the slasher genre, including an old man who warns the kids to stay away from this place, someone being killed after having sex, and the face-slapping of a hysterical person. I wish he had done something with these tried-and-true elements — satirize them, subvert them — other than just use them.
The zombies’ Nazism is irrelevant, of course; it’s not like favoring the creation of a pure Aryan race makes them any scarier than they were when they just wanted to eat your flesh. Being zombies, they’re not very articulate about their political views anyway. But the blood-drenched fight scenes out in the snow are gruesomely entertaining, and even a little beautiful, what with all that red being photographed against so much white. Wirkola especially has a fondness for exposed intestines. I am certain I have never seen a film that featured so many of them. Entrails get more screen time here than any of the actors do.
The funniest, most inspired moments come in the film’s last 15 minutes — which is smart, because it sends the audience out smiling. The fact remains, however, that what proceeds the finale is just average, a retread of familiar situations punctuated with hilariously gory stunts. If I saw the film again, I’d want it to be a highlight reel, not the whole 91 minutes.
C+ (1 hr., 31 min.; Norwegian with subtitles; )