Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dead Snow - Zombie Nazi horror!

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Two things nerds love are Zombies and Nazis. Let's face it, part of what sucked in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Son of the Alien of the Crystal Burgers was that they traded Nazis for Commies. The Norwegian horror film Dead Snow (aka Død Snø, where a møøse ønce bit my sister) delivers on the Nazi zombie promise, giving us a tongue-in-cheek, intestines-in-lap and MG42-on-snowmobile slasher flick loaded with gore, deadpan humor, scares and decrepit undead in Nazi uniforms. What's not to like?
I kept my expectations low, and was blown away. After seeing a girl in ski gear fleeing from a groaning menace, only to tumble down the hill and get gutted, it does have a slow start as most slashers do. We follow a car full of nerds, and a separate car of their girlfriends as they drive above to the isolated north for a cabin trip in the snow. One fat nerd has a Braindead shirt on, and gets told not to talk about movies all the time if he wants to get laid, so we know the movie is aware of other horror films.
They park, and Vegard- who brought a snowmobile- zooms off down the trail, telling the rest to follow his tracks. He'll get the fire going. Plus his girlfriend Sarah was going to ski over the mountain, and if she's there, they'll have some time to themselves. This gives us time to get to know our victims, such as the Martin the bespectacled med student and his girlfriend; the film nerd Erlend, and Roy, "the horniest boy north of the Arctic Circle." The other girls are Hanna, and her "very single" cousin Kris. It's a slasher film, they could be named Zombie chow #5, but Dead Snow gives them enough personality that we care. And thanks to the subtitles and amusing dialogue, we don't want them to die immediately.
They play snowmobile games- getting towed behind it on an inner tube, roast weenies over the fire, and have snowball fights. But Sara never appears. We begin to suspect we've met the poor girl in the opening sequence. As night falls, they move the games inside and play Twister. A stranger knocks on the door, an old man who wants a cup of coffee before he travels on. He tells them a spooky tale of the area's dark secret, that during World War 2, the local commander and his SS were very cruel to the locals, and when they knew the war was lost, they went to slaughter everyone for whatever gold and trinkets they could find. But the people fought back, with pitchforks and shovels if they had to, and the Nazis disappeared into the mountains.
Some believe they still wander these barren wastes.... He disappears into the otherwise uneventful night, and the next morning Vengard leaves on his snowmobile to look for Sara. The rest of the crew goof around playing games, until they find a crawlspace under the house containing a small wooden box... containing a small fortune in gold trinkets. Uh oh... Vengard doesn't find Sara, but he does find the old man's tent. And he won't be telling scary stories no more. Double uh oh...
Soon after a hilarious midnight tryst in the outhouse for the best way to keep warm above the Arctic Circle, the creepy stuff starts to happen. Kris hides out in the crapper before doing her walk of shame, and sees eyes peeking at her. When she comes inside, she's found Sara's backpack... and then Sara's head is peeking at them through the windows, but the rest of her isn't there... (triple uh-oh). From there the Zombie Nazis (Let me make this clear. Zombie Nazis are undead Nazis who became zombies. Nazi Zombies joined the Nazi party after they became undead, I imagine. These guys are the first kind.) lay siege to the house, and we get a typical if well-crafted survival horror as they hole up in the cabin, like Evil Dead and so many movies before it.
But Dead Snow is full of surprises. These aren't mindless undead, and they know how to cut the power. Death has granted them superhuman strength, like the zombies in Dawn of the Dead (the original, those these guys can run) and they can tear your torso apart, if not your soul. And they don't give a shit about brains, as we see one plop on the floor like so much discarded sauerbraten. Knowing about zombies, our plucky nerd victims block up the doors and windows, and put up a defense with a shotgun and kitchen knives, and discuss running to the cars when daylight comes.
Meanwhile Vengard has fallen through the snow into some underground tunnels, and when he wakes up, it's like he's in a level of Castle Wolfenstein. MP40 Schmeissers, helmets, a Nazi flag, and bones, so many bones... perhaps this is where the evil Kommandant and his men died in the snowy wastes, sixty years ago. But he's not alone, and fights it out with a snarling Nazi zombie. The movie cuts between Vengard's fights with the soldiers, and his rather clever ways of dispatching them. Because they are hard to kill, and at one point he's swinging from a cliff hanging by a zombie's intestines, head-butting another that's trying to gnaw his throat out.
The gore ramps up from there, slowly getting more and more ridiculous without getting so silly that the scares are meaningless. They fight back to the shed and find a chainsaw and sledgehammer, and the fun begins, because the Nazis seem to have run out of ammo in 1972. As the evil commander leads his minions toward the cabin, the body count does begin to rival Dead Alive (aka Braindead), especially once Vengard returns with his snowmobile-mounted MG42. But the thing about dead Nazis is there's so many of them.
This movie exceeded my expectations in all ways, resembling Forklift Driver Klaus vs. the Zombie Nazi horde in the fjords. When it comes on DVD I suggest you rent it. It's the closest we'll get to a Castle Wolfenstein movie for some time. Sure, is it everything a Zombie Nazi could be? No, but it's a very entertaining horror flick that uses them, in its own unique way. It resembles The Fog a bit in its concept, but I was thoroughly entertained.

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