Dead Snow (2009)

Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #334

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Number of Views: One
Release Date: 9 January 2009
Sub-Genre: Zombie Horror
Country of Origin: Norway
Budget: $800,000
Box Office: $1,984,662
Running Time: 91 minutes
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Producers: Tomas Evjen, Harald Zwart
Screenplay: Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen
Special Effects: Per Steinar Hoftun, Shino Kotani, Lene Bruksås, Elisabeth Lusie Haugan, Steinar Kaarstein, Ragnhild Prestholt, Gudmund Saksvik
Visual Effects: Bryan Jones
Cinematography: Matthew Weston
Score: Christian Wibe
Editing: Martin Stoltz
Studios: Miho Film, Yellow Bastard Production, News on Request, Zwart Arbeid, Barentsfilm AS, FilmCamp, Storm Studios
Distributor: Euforia Film
Stars: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Lasse Valdal, Evy Kasseth Røsten, Jeppe Laursen, Jenny Skavlan, Ane Dahl Torp, Bjørn Sundquist, Ørjan Gamst

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I like snow. Apart from the yellow variety; that’s ominous. If it is the pristine kind then it can be bundles of fun. As a bairn I would mirthfully waltz through blizzards, rolling up projectiles, constructing lopsided snowmen and decorating them with defective twigs, discarded carrots and duffel coat buttons. I even broke out the toboggan on occasion or, in the absence of a bobsled, used one of my mother’s less cherished dinner trays to gain downhill momentum. The real kicker was that an overnight slow flurry would invariably mean school closure and, considering I was clocking up questionable absent days at the rate of Ferris Bueller, white was alright by me. However, this is my first experience with Dead Snow or Død Snø to quote our Norwegian pals.

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I like Norway too. This fine Scandinavian nation gave us Roar Uthaug and he, in turn, provided Cold Prey, showing that slasher can travel well if handled with the correct mittens. That film spawned two sequels and Dead Snow is already hot on its heels with its comical sequel Red vs. Dead garnering praise from all around the globe. In addition, director Tommy Wirkola turned enough heads with his sophomore full-length feature that our American cousins snapped him up for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Norwegians are now officially on the horror map. To use Tommy’s native tongue, Hurra!

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Wirkola and fellow screenwriter Stig Frode Henriksen, who also pops up in both Dead Snow movies, evidently adore their beloved horror and, five minutes in, the young cast are referencing the classics with relentlessly enough to make the great Wes Craven spit out his frothy latte. If it burns Wes, just throw a little snow in your lap and you’ll be right as rain. Friday The 13th and The Evil Dead are thrown relentlessly into conversation and one of our principal characters even wears a Braindead T-shirt, which is particularly poignant as nearly five hundred quarts of blood are used here, putting it almost on par with Peter Jackson’s benchmark for splatter. That’s right Grueheads; it’s a gusher.

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The film focuses around seven cine-savvy medical students who set off for the mountains for a relaxing ski vacation. There would be eight but the hapless Sara is little more than credit fodder and is torn asunder before she can throw her first snowball. Wirkola is patient with his set-up while introducing us to our cabin fodder and his decision is an astute one as, despite being typically one-dimensional, they are an affable bunch and he plays on their group dynamic well. Just as they settle in for a weekend of excess, Norwegian roots music, and spilled semen, a mysterious straggler (Bjorn Sundquist) rains on their parade with tales of vengeful Nazi zombies and their hidden riches. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he also disses their coffee-making skills.

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The zombies in question aren’t your regular shuffle bandits but, instead, are more reminiscent of draug. The draug are ancient undead Norse beings who would stop at nothing to protect their bounty, think Blake’s bullies from The Fog and then add Nazi regalia and you’re on the right track. While they don’t have movable mist clouds as concealment, they do have a gargantuan glacial playground at their disposal, complete with dense blackened thickets to play hide and seek within. Wirkola keeps his undead mutts on a short leash for the first act before slackening the reins and crying “Sick Balls” and “Sieg Heil” in unison and it’s game-on from hereon in.

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While it initially appears as though the marooned fun-seekers are mere ice sculptures for the shattering, four in particular warrant special mention. Squeamish Martin (Vegar Hoel) and his spirited soul mate Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) are key to proceedings, Roy (co-writer Henriksen) is a most able Scotty to our Dødites, while Vegard (Lasse Valdal) undertakes perhaps the most significant pilgrimage of all, battling valiantly against the incessant droves of forgotten Reich. Black comedy is prevalent but thankfully our cast play it straight down the line and it never veers into parody as could so easily have been the case. Zombie movies have a tendency not to take themselves seriously enough but these tyrants aren’t overtly campy and pose a burly enough threat to keep the air decidedly chilly.

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That’s not to say you won’t be laughing from the pit of your abdomen on occasion; the moment where Martin foolishly buys into the age-old conception that “once bitten, forever rotten” and discharges an appendage, only to then have his family heirlooms chowed down upon is as treasured as any cache of coinage; while I would recommend against rappelling into the void using a large intestine as I’m fairly assured it wouldn’t withstand the weight of two men as is suggested in another comical scene. It’s all very knowing of course, hasn’t a dash of originality, and is content to play the homage card, drawing influence from the films which made up his filmic upbringing. In the case of  Dead Snow that couldn’t be farther from a criticism.

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Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 8/10

Grue Factor: 5/5

 

For the Grue-Guzzlers: In the words of my dear friend Billy Crash, holy hell! Decapitation, vivisection, dismemberment, slashed throats, gouged eyes, brain spillage, axe wounds, chainsaw massacres, cranial whack-a-mole, the list goes on…and on. There’s enough here to make a piñata wince. For a film made for a paltry $800,000 the FX effortlessly plants its flag at the summit. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer.

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Read Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead Appraisal

Read Outpost: Black Sun Appraisal

Read Cold Prey: Resurrection Appraisal

Read Wither Appraisal

 

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