Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead

A while back I said I really liked Rec 3 and how it was a better film than expected, and also how I hoped it wouldn’t be pre-judged for being a poor sequel. It was a fun film, had a sense of humour about itself and the franchise, but also had good characters and an emotionally driven plot.

So having done that, I feel it is only fair to give a nod to Dead Snow 2. For pretty much the same reasons.

To give some background, the film Dead Snow is a Norwegian cult horror film, where some friends go up a mountain and end up fighting Nazi zombies. There is a historical context for it, revealing that the Nazi soldiers had once controlled this region and been slaughtered by an uprising. They were vicious murderers and greedy looters back then, and nothing had changed for them now they’re undead. They want their gold back and they’ll kill everyone just because. Also, the zombies aren’t slow, gurgling automatons. Rather, these soldiers are armed, quick, deadly. They are presented as highly intimidating early on.

The film itself is fairly Evil Dead 2: a Norwegian zombie retelling. Lots of humour, quick cuts and gore fights. It is a lot of fun as well as a solid horror film.

The sequel continues on from where the original left off. Spoilers here, but the lone survivor, who found a gold coin in his car and then sees the zombie leader outside, manages to escape, taking off the leader’s arm. He had already lost his own during the first story, trying to not turn into one of them after being bitten. That whole sequence was very Sam Raimi inspired, funny as well as wince inducing.

That all becomes important as the character wakes up in hospitable with his arm sewn back on, except it is the arm belonging to the Nazi officer, Herzog. This leads to bloodshed and police involvement, as the arm kills of its own accord, yet the film pushes on beyond this to reveal the Nazis are fulfilling a mission from their previous lives and are intent on destroying a town. Martin, the survivor, has to stop them, and finds out his new arm is not only super strong and bloodthirsty, but can also raise the dead. Both he and Herzog are then building their own forces to face off, culminating in a showdown, where dead Nazis fight dead Commies.

There’s more to this though. I need to mention the Zombie Squad, three Americans who are very geeky but actually quite good at killing the undead. They become involved in this Norwegian skirmish, as does a museum employee, and they’re all quite fun. Best thing is that Martin Starr, aka Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley, is one of the squad. I remember watching the film for some time thinking: wait, is that Gilfoyle? Nah. Looks like his 12-year-old brother at best. But it was him!

So without going on about plots and themes, etc, I want to talk about why I rate this film and think it’s worth watching. Also, why it confounded my own presumptuous nature.

Basically, I saw the trailer for this and swore. I saw Americans in a Norwegian film. I suspected this would be a very American movie. I suspected an American company had got hold of the rights or something and had made some crappy sequel (much like the Descent 2). I saw no reason for this to exist. It looked kind of dumb, as well as just a bunch of random stuff happening. I leapt to my steed of outrage and proclaimed this was some kind of BS sequel for cash and would impair the original!

I ended up watching it anyway, thinking: ah well, if it’s bad, it is bad. Nothing new there. A bad, unnecessary horror sequel. Join the long queue.

Very early on, I got that this was more comedy than horror this time, and it was really enjoying itself. It is still gory, brilliantly so, but the emphasis in tone was certainly more to having a laugh. It isn’t a parody of itself, this isn’t Gremlins 2 or anything, but it does know what it is. Nazi zombies, splatter gore across the camera, jokes and deaths. It goes all out. Many death scenes for nameless characters are pretty unique, or at least striking.

Something I loved quickly, and still do, is how much the film embraces grotesque, horrible humour. This is not a film to enjoy if you don’t like bad things happening to people. Babies are blown up and you hear silly baby noises, making it clear this is comedic, not serious. Early on, you meet an American kid who is all peppy and chatty and just very ‘American kid in a movie’. I did wonder if he’d be a major character, tagging along. But no, he’s dies very quickly. Hilariously too. He isn’t just thrown through a barred window by the zombie arm, but when Martin tries to revive him with CPR, his powerful limb crunches through the boy, spraying blood over Martin’s face. Nope, this film isn’t just about nasty deaths, it makes it very clear this is bad taste humour.

Quick mention of the actor playing Martin, Vegar Heol. He’s really good at humour. I didn’t find him a particularly notable character in the first film, but here he has a lot to do and does it very well. His reaction to a zombie eating its own sick is fantastic.

Oh, got to mention that zombie. He’s a superb example of what this film is aiming for. Basically he is a poor bloke who gets killed by the Nazis. Martin revives him by accident. Then kills him in surprise. Then revives him again, then he is killed by an axe to the face as the Zombie Squad arrive. Then he is revived again. If you’re noticing a pattern, well, it keeps going. The poor sod gets killed and revived several times, and often gets the rough end of things besides that. Being used as traction is never good for you.

The film has a very fun yet also weirdly kind of emotional ending, but I refuse to give that away.

So Dead Snow 2 is a much better sequel than you may think. I wouldn’t put it up there with Gremlins 2, yet, I have to admit, it isn’t far behind. I really enjoyed it. Reminds me of the twisted humour of Peter Jackson’s Braindead (called Dead Alive by North Americans). I liked the characters a lot. The American geeks are a bit on the nose, sure, with the Star Wars references, but nothing that put me off, and I tend to have a low tolerance for that kind of thing. The film is in Norwegian often, also spoken in English other times, so if you’re not a fan of subtitles, well, you’re missing out on a lot of great films.

Dead Snow was a really good horror zombie film, with good comedy and striking gore. I loved it, have it on DVD, seen it a few times.

Dead Snow 2 is more focused on being funny, on pushing the edges of decency, and doesn’t bog itself down in explaining what is going on. Herzog and his men are Nazis, they are trying to complete their mission, Martin has a zombie arm. That’s it. The film does kind of counter some of the stuff from the first one, I guess, where they were only loot hoarders. Doesn’t matter much.

Anyway, if you like horror comedy, watch Dead Snow. If you can handle it and want more, especially if you want the comedy turned up to eleven, then watch the sequel. You might be grossed out. You should be really, and appalled at killing kids, but feel free to laugh too. It’s just a movie. A surprisingly good one.

Well holy shit, in checking facts and names about the film, I found that Stig Frode Henriksen, who plays the repressed museum employee, was also in the first movie as one of the friends. Had to check and, wow, yes it is him, can see it now, but would never have recognised him. Fair play, mate.


REC 3: Genesis – Better Than You Think

I should be writing more Sojourners in Shadow, yet last night I watched Rec 3: Genesis, and I felt impelled to champion this film a bit. So I am.

The first film is one of the few first-person horrors I think works quite well. Ambitious and pushy reporter and her cameraman, stuck in an apartment block where terrible things start to happen. Really great film. The Spanish do really good horror and this is one of the best I’ve seen. The American remake, Quarantine, is okay.

Then came the sequel. I watched it, was okay as well. Did a few different perspectives, built on the story a bit. Had a few good shocks. But honestly, if you had seen Rec, then Rec 2, there’s a good chance you’d never bother with a third film. Which is why I want to say this:

Watch it. No, really, watch it. It’s fun.

Wait, fun? The first two are very serious films. Dark, terrifying, macabre.

So here’s the thing with the third film. It starts off at a wedding. This is the tough part you have to get through. I can see why it goes on, so you get to know people, why they matter – to you as the audience and to each other – but it goes on for sometime. You have a teenager (cousin to the groom I think, I can’t rightly remember) filming things, along with a professional. So it’s first-person and showing you this wedding, where you know things are about to go very bad. Once you see the uncle with a bandaged hand, you really know.

So yeah, wedding stuff, character stuff, and then biting and screaming. Things go nuts. A few run into the kitchen and lock themselves in. The main character, the groom, turns to the camera and asks why the man is still filming. The world must know!, he replies. Groom loses his shit, grabs the camera and smashes it. Then the Rec 3 title comes up. After about 20 minutes. Yeah, 20.

But when the film starts up, it’s third-person, and that’s how it remains (barring a crawl through the dark via nightvision). Basically, this third film highlights the absurdity of someone filming while people are dying and struggling to survive, smashes the camera and goes to third. It throws aside the perspective of the first films. Not only that, but you start to realise the tone is very different. When I first saw this moment (trust me, it works a lot better than I describe) I laughed out loud. I had only watched the film to check it out, with nothing better to do; having seen the sequel and not liked it, I wasn’t too bothered. I let it run through the build up, then that moment happened. I knew something was different from then on.

So Rec 3 quickly reveals itself to be a comedy horror, much more akin to the Evil Dead and Shaun of the Dead than the previous Rec films. A man in the kitchen is uncovered to be someone checking the music played at the wedding for copyright, and is thus dubbed Royalties. Hey, Royalties, come help. But the groom is the focus. He wants to be with his new wife, and when he is panicking, she speaks over an intercom, and this gives him all the drive he needs. Time to escape and find his love!

That is the film. She is newly pregnant, she tells him this over the intercom, and both find new strength to re-unite. There’s a great moment where the bride is in a room and the zombiefied beings are clawing their way in and she is scared as hell, but she clutches her stomach and gets to action, finding a way out.

There’s a lot to love in this film and that is one of them: the main couple get scared, a lot, freaked out even, but they keep on. These aren’t badasses, they are normal people. This is a nightmare. The bride is standing in the rain at one point and her eyes are wide as hell as she is waiting, struggling to cope. But she finds a way.

If you ever wanted to watch a bride charge around with a chainsaw, then watch this film. If you ever wanted to see people be sensible, gear up in armour and go out into the undead, then watch this film. Drunken making out is mistaken for someone being devoured. There are meaningful characters and comedic ones to come and go. There are serious deaths and funny ones. There is tragedy and humour. You get the idea.

You get to meet SpongeJohn. No, not SpongeBob, not at all. Just to be clear. No lawsuits here. SpongeJohn.

I really enjoyed watching this film for a third time last night. I only meant to see a bit, but it really got to me, once again, how fun it is, while keeping the horror. It doesn’t really add much to the lore, just enough to remind you that these are possessed people, not zombies, and that religion/faith plays a part.

I should warn anyone who does watch this film that the ending isn’t funny. I mean maybe in a dark and tragic way. I don’t want to spoil, but this is a horror movie after all.

I admired how, in making a third of this franchise, they just went a different route. Reminds me of Gremlins 2. Let’s just get wacky and turns things up to 11.

I will add that this is the third film that comes to mind when I think of Spanish horror comedies that I’ve greatly enjoyed. I’m not sure if the titles stay the same but the other two films were Attack of the Werewolves along with Witching and Bitching. Both very funny. A SpongeBob gets gunned down early on in the latter, if that’s something you’ve ever wanted to see. Both I found to be very witty in dialogue and amusing in action, and pretty good on the horror too.

Rec is a very intense and scary film. I like it a lot. Seen it a number of times now and will likely watch it again in the future. Rec 3 is no match for it in terms of horror, but it’s very different, and certainly a better watch than Rec 2. For me, at least. So I’d ask anyone who didn’t like that film to not judge the third by it. Give Rec 3 a chance. Just remember, there’s a fair bit of wedding stuff to sit through, then you’re in.

Let’s hear it for the Bride and Groom!

Death’s Head is the Best, yes?

I’m a Batman fanboy. I like the Green Arrow a lot, although not read much on him. Big fan of the tv show. Always been interested in knowing more about Martian Manhunter after watching the Justice League animated series. Judge Dredd is great (give us a Dredd sequel, you bastards!) as are the ABC Warriors and Bad Company and others. I love me some 2000AD.

Yet if I had to pick a favourite comic book character, it would have to be Death’s Head. Not because he is a Marvel character. Don’t give a shit about that Marvel vs DC crap. Being Marvel certainly suits him – he has an irreverence about the mayhem he gets involved in, although that also shows his British origins, I think – but I don’t care what team he plays for. It is the character himself. The all business, ultra violent freelance peacekeeper with the twisted sense of humour and affront to being named a bounty hunter.

Death’s Head. The mechanoid who fought Rodimus Prime and Galvatron, and future Iron Man and the Fantastic Four, and had two run ins with my childhood Doctor, Number Seven (Sylvester McCoy), and more. Not the most intelligent of individuals but quite devious when necessary, in a blunt-weapon-on-legs type of way, Death’s Head was like a mechanoid mountie – he always got his man. You hired him, he got the job done, no matter how many walls he had to break through, heads he had to bust open or hits he had to take. He was damn tough, if not invincible. He had to be rebuilt by his new partner Spratt at one point. He can be broken up a bit too. When he fights Arno Stark, he gets his head ripped off, but his body kicks the crap out of the Iron Man of 2020. He also had a detachable hand. He carries an array of weapons that can be fixed onto his arm. Very handy, yes?

Perhaps I should explain about that. Death’s Head had a quirky way of talking. Often short and sharp, to the point, as any businessman should be. But he often ended statements with questions or added a querying yes or no to a question. “I scare you, yes?” “Should have ducked faster, no?” “Bad day for you, yes? Should never have got out of bed, huh? Let me put you back to sleep.” (These aren’t quotes, by the way. Just things I made up that suit his style).

It is amusing to read but really added to his unique behaviour. He’s an oddball, even for a heavily armed robot who lives for profit. He also has strict codes and a very practical attitude to, well, everything. Never take things personally. Don’t get mad, get paid. Oh, he would whole heartedly agree with the Joker’s comment: If you’re good at something, never do it for free. Even lunatics make sense sometimes, no?

So credit where credit is due, the two creators of Death’s Head are Simon Furman and Geoff Senior – the writer and artist respectively. Apparently he was only meant to be a minor character in the Transformers’ world, yet after Geoff Senior had worked out the appearance, they knew he had to be something more. He looks great. Kind of like a robot devil – something which is highlighted in one story where a criminal refers to him as El Diablo. Simon Furman is a name that means a lot to me too. He worked on Transformers comics in the UK, then got promoted to running things in the US because of how good a job he had done. He used the new characters from the 1986 movie really well and wrote a brilliant storyline for the Transformers facing Unicron. Different to the one in that movie, and elsewhere I believe. Much better too. I wrote about it before: Me, Grimlock, Understand Genetics

Death’s Head came from good parents and deserved a better run. From what I’ve read, Furman and Senior both love the bastard and have tried repeatedly to bring him back. If he ever got into one of the Marvel movies somehow, that would be my true fanboy moment. I might literally squee.

Rushing Guardians of the Galaxy

I watched this movie in the cinema during the summer. I enjoyed it a lot, yet I found the opening half hour or so tough to get into. I spent most of it fiddling with my 3D glasses. This was the first time I had ever worn them and I did not like them at all. I think one lens was dirty. Either way, I could never decide if I didn’t like the first part of the film because of the film itself or the glasses. Was I fussing over them because I had nothing better to pay attention to or was my fussing distracting me from the movie?

So I’m watching the DVD right now. No glasses. No distractions.

Is it better? Yes. But damn the opening of this movie feels threadbare. Far too much telling and little showing. Ronan is very bad because people say so. Gamorah is badass because people say so. Drax is the Destroyer due to things that happened before the beginning. The Kree conflict is something spoken of a lot. The list goes on. Oh and don’t start me on sources. Plot points are told to other characters due to sources telling them, even though who these sources are and how they can possibly know these things is beyond me.

I’m not a fan of the immediate opening either. Really bleak seeing a kid say goodbye, or rather fail to, to his dying mother. Would have much preferred it to start as Starlord lands on a mysterious world and explores it. Then the music kicks in. Although that bit irked me too. As someone who used to listen to a Walkman while walking around, they really hamper the senses. Not something I would do on an unknown planet. Felt a really try-hard moment at establishing yet another laid-back, casual, relatable (I despise that word these days) Marvel hero. As for the dying mother bit, which is important, that could have come later as a flashback. Damn that was bleak.

Once we get to the prison break, things kick into gear. Big time. Groot walking up to the alarm while Drax stands and watches, looks around as if to ask ‘is anyone else seeing this?’, and then keeps watching as Groot sets the alarm off, is hilarious but accurately depicts the characters. Once we get the gang together and sparking off each other, this movie is a lot of fun. Dumb, yeah, but highly entertaining.

I would recommend this film to fans of scifi or Marvel or basic hero-group type stories. Get through the rough, rushed opener and you’ll be fine.

Black Dynamite is a Damn Funny Satire

I saw some bits of Black Dynamite on Youtube, then found the movie itself. I watched the first half hour, decided I liked it a lot, so bought the DVD.

This was a wise and worthy purchase on my part.

The movie was very funny, fast paced and highly entertaining. Plenty of jokes. Action scenes that are done in that over the top way for this kind of movie, but not too silly. Well okay, pimp slapping someone into a cabinet was pretty silly.

One important feature I realised while watching the extras on the DVD was that this is a satire, not a spoof. I told someone it was a spoof before I saw it, but now I know better. A spoof is Spaceballs, where, during the fight between Dark Helmet and Lone Star, a member of the crew is killed. In Black Dynamite, you get a mic popping into frame.

Satire is subtle. Spoof is turned up to 11. I love spoofs. Some of my favourite all time films include Airplane (possibly the funniest), Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Naked Gun, and more. Hell, I love spoofs so much I can rarely resist them. I even enjoy the Scary Movies. Mind you, the latest one is a grind.

But I love that nonsensical humour of spoofs. The normalcy of the bizarre. The absurd passing through to glorious affect.

Satire is more careful, seeking to jab at the subject matter, not rip it apart. In Black Dynamite, you see all that you know and love from black exploitation movies of the 70s, and it pays tribute while tickling the source material. It doesn’t break the fourth wall too much either. You have an actor who speaks his stage directions before his dialogue, you have a mic in scene, you have a car that doesn’t stop properly (which actually happened so they kept it in), but no looks to camera or ruining the world created. Most of the jokes come from the world and those in it.

Whether satire or spoof, I take to the movies that love the material they are making fun of. Want to lampoon horror movies? Do it as people who know and revere them. Not only will you know what you’re doing and where to make the jokes, but you will often dare to push further. Making fun of something, anything, without that admiration just seems mean. I don’t think I’ve ever found mean humour amusing. The people behind Black Dynamite clearly love blacksploitation movies, while knowing full well their flaws.

I really liked this movie. It reminded me of I’m Gonna Get You Sucka, which was a spoof. This was different. Not so over the top, not so daft. I enjoyed the characters. The plot made enough sense to follow it but didn’t worry about being fully logical. There is one moment that sends me into hysterics each time I see it. I took to the characters. Basically, I was able to enjoy this movie both as a comedy and an action piece.

Also, Black Dynamite was a great character. I saw one episode of the animated show they made and found that very funny too. He may be a comedy character, but that doesn’t stop Black Dynamite from being one cool cat. You dig?

A Couple of Fun Horrors

Again, some more rambling reactions I had to a couple of movies from years back. These weren’t linked when I wrote them, but I felt they have a lot in common so decided to slap them out here together:

Just watched Black Sheep.

Basically it is a horror set in New Zealand with sheep going nuts and killing people. Not much of a plot, it’s the usual ‘chemicals make them bad’ thing, and the characters are decent enough. Strong level of gore, especially when down the hole in the ground or the sheep attack while the speech is going on, but often it is done with a hint of humour.

That’s what I liked about this one. It isn’t a great horror movie, it goes along well, but it has a quirky tone and a wry look. It knows even mad sheep aren’t scary, so doesn’t try. It lets you laugh while they do terrible things, and that makes it more effective. If it had tried to be serious, then you would scoff and look away. When a sheep attacks a man driving his truck, it has to bring a smile to your face, so they go with that. On the one hand he is fighting for his life, and on the other he is banging the sheep’s head into the steering wheel. Because it lets you see the silliness, you don’t lose the drama.

If you can stomach the gore element (I found it easy but then I’m an Evil Dead and Living Dead nut) then you can sit and enjoy this. Nothing amazing, but a decently made movie with good characters and killer sheep.
Killer sheep. Just to make it clear. Seriously. Oh, suit yourselves.

And then:

Watched Lake Placid. This is one of a set of movies that are good fun horror american movies, often done cheap and independent, with very good characters and actors. This one, Slither, Tremors, the Burbs, – that kind. They don’t take everything too seriously, but do keep the scares in.

This isn’t that scary, but is good fun. It is basically a great big croc eating people. They even had a big croc on the poster if I remember right – parody of Jaws in a way. But you don’t care too much. This isn’t focused on the monster and what goes on, much more about the four characters. You have Bridget Fonda and Bill Pullman as the main two, and are very good. But you also have Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Platt in what would be secondary roles yet they are brilliant and take up a lot of the movie with their bickering.
There’s some good swearing in this too. ‘Thanks a lot, fuckshit.’

But a very good horror which can be watched a lot, simply because the characters and actors are engaging in a way most horror doesn’t do. This, Slither, Tremors, Burbs, also Evil Dead (especially 2) and Gremlins (especially 2 for humour), are just damn fun horror movies.

So those were two posts I wrote on a forum years back. I have to say that I watched Lake Placid again recently and it is still very enjoyable. Great cast. Betty White is good too. The sequels seemed to miss the sense of fun ride of the original.

But I really do love these comedy horrors. It doesn’t have to be comedy, truth be told, just a sense of adventure and acknowledgement that this is kind of daft when you think about it but who cares? The Burbs remains one of my all time favourite movies. Tremors is a perfect movie for what it is – you want scares, laughs, monsters, weirdness and a group of characters you give a damn about? Tremors is your film.

There remains something brilliant about being able to laugh and gasp in horror while watching the same movie. I love my tense, grim horrors. I love my silly comedies. But I am a horror nut and watching a movie that makes me feel relaxed and grinning away, until the shocker kicks in, is a great way to be entertained and also enthralled.