Back in the dark old days of 2002, Danny Boyle kick started the modern cycle of zombie movies with the serious, moody 28 Days Later. It dealt with issues such as rage and absent father figures, all wrapped up in a bleak vision of the apocalyse. It became a modern classic and reinvigorated a long since dead horror sub genre. I wondered if Boyle back then realised that 13 years later we would be watching a Nazi zombie general fighting atop a runaway tank across a Norwegian town with a guy in a green and white shell suit?
Make no mistake about the Dead Snow films, they are not interested in social commentary or any depth in anyway at all. They are only here to entertain in an as over-the-top way as possible.
Dead Snow was, I vaguely remember, a fairly and fun diverting slice of gory meyhem which took half the film to get going but once it did it delivered the goods. There wasn’t much more to it, although, unlike many zombie movies, it definately went for the Evil Dead inspired comic violence and was very well made. It meant the director, Tommy Wirkola, was able to make the leap to Hollywood and make the equally silly and equally Evil Dead-esque Hansel & Gretal: Witch Hunters. Wirkola is back home in his native Norway here, and with a bigger budget and an obvious development of how to make a slick, good looking movie. Dead Snow 2 is a very well crafted, completely empty bit of entertainment, much like the first one, but more evenly paced with extreme violence and ridiculousness peppered throughout rather than just leaving it til the back end of the movie.
Things start off just where they left off, which in theory is tricky as the first film was so vapid I had no idea what had happened. Fortunately we get a recap with the survivors voice-over bringing us up to date. This makes the film seem even more like Evild Dead 2, but I appreciate the help they are giving us anyway. There is a plot and as the subtitle suggests there are communist zombies in it this time round. There’s a big stand off between Herzog, leader of the Nazis and the Russian boss who looks like an undead version of Zangief from Streetfight 2. He even has the same beard:
This big fight is played out like a battle we’ve been waiting for for years like the Alien vs Predator or Tiffiny vs Debbie Gibson, but we only met the Russion chap ten minutes before hand. Still, you know, whatever. I shouldn’t really dig too deeply into any of this.
As I’ve said the film is very well put together and full of incident. There are a number of apparent preoccupations of the film makers which set it apart from other zombie movies, other than the fact that it is from Norway which is pretty unique in itself.
1) Vomit. Everyone seems to throw up in this movie. If some one sees a zombie for a first time they throw up. A museum worker sees a massacre and chucks up on the window he’s looking through, which the hero casually wipes aside. Even one of the zombies chucks up a rancid chuck of sick in the back of the car which results in everyone having to drive with the windows open.
2) Intestines. If these is a chance to yank out the entire entestinal tract of someone then these walking stiffs will do it. Much of it is for the sake of killing a victim but not exclusively. At one point the Nazis use some poor fellow’s intestines to steal fuel from a bus to fill up their tank. Whether this would work in real life is open to debate.
3) Children. Chrildren are not sacred in Dead Snow 2. They are killed as frequently as everyone else is. And not even in a tragic way. They are killed for a laugh. Babies are blown up, three little boys are flattened by the tank whilst playing in a sand pit. There’s even one moment when the hero accidently kills a boy who is helping him. The police come out and find him leaning over the boy holding his stomach (and intestines of course) in his hands, covered in the kid’s blood. “Its not what it looks like!” cries our hero.
4) Wheelchairs. People in wheelchairs get almost as hard a time of it in horror movies as dogs do. You only have to start with poor old Franklin in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to know that. Here though there seems to be a lot of, er, fun to be had seeing disabled people unable to escape the Nazi zombie hordes and having their head stomped in by a jack boot or, yeah, having their intestines pulled out.
I’m not sure if any of these unique features are actually a good thing. Really most of them are quite unpleasent. However, the film takes itself so unseriously that its kind of hard to be offended.
And I think that’s the point. Against all these factors the film is silly and light and ridiculous, and it knows it. The fact that it’s no longer in Norwegian and everyone speaks English just seems to reinforce this factor. Its a daft and gory hour and half, easy to consume, as mindless as the first, maybe even more so. I’m writing this review straight after seeing it, and even as I write, the events in Red vs Dead are slipping from my memory. Its a fun but forgettable zombie flick, so very far away from 28 Days Later which once seen, for all its own faults, could never be forgotten.