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.