Retro Review: DEAD SNOW (2009){0}

Nazi zombies.

That’s all you really need to hear and you know if you want to see Dead Snow or not. I mean … zombies are pretty damn evil all by themselves, but zombies that are also undead minions of Adolf Hitler? You don’t get much more horrible than that. It’s not the plot or the acting or the brilliantly insightful and multi-layered screenplay that you’ll be looking for when you sit down with this nutty Norwegian import, but if you’re down with the concept of flesh-eating SS stormtroopers … then yeah, there’s definitely some fun to be had here.

Aside from the rather unique antagonists, there’s not a lot here that’s new: A group of young pals head out for a wonderful skiing trip … only to run afoul of the nastiest Nazi zombies you’ve ever seen. (OK, more like the only Nazi zombies you’ve ever seen … unless you’ve actually seen Shock Waves from 1976, that is.) The gang is your typically eclectic bunch: sexy girls, nerdy guys, and one unlikely hero — but once Dead Snow gets through a slightly sketchy first act, and once it starts focusing on its outlandishly maniacal zombie-strewn set pieces, I’m betting that the serious horror fans will begin to appreciate this frosty import for the Raimi / Jackson love letter it so clearly is.

Although not exactly all that scary, Dead Snow earns big points for enthusiasm, creativity, and a powerful devotion to all things ultra-splattery. If section one is your basic set-up (and it is), and section two starts the gore-ball moving in confident fashion, then section three is absolutely over-drenched in gore, energy, and lunacy. Almost too energetic for its own good, the final third of this zombie flick is basically one big carnage crescendo after another. You can actually feel director Tommy Wirkola working hard to top his previous gore-gag. And more often than not he pulls it off with no trouble at all. Dead Snow is little more than a 90-minute excuse for some wintry wildness and subzero slaughter, but most of the highlights are spot-on amusing, and the finest moments of gore ‘n’ gristle go down surprisingly well. A game cast and some fine FX work help a whole lot, as does the somewhat unique setting, which means that while Dead Snowis hardly a re-invention of the zombie wheel, it’s certainly an icky enough import to warrant a curious glance or two.

BONUS! Prior to the Sundance screening of Dead Snow, we were treated to an absolutely awesome comedy / horror short called Treevenge, and it’s precisely what it sounds like: After being brutalized for countless Decembers, the fir trees of the world have had enough … and they’re ready to fight back. The resulting carnage is as over-the-top shocking as it is tongue-in-cheek hilarious, which makes this one of the finest “gore & giggles” combo I’ve seen in quite some time. This supremely amusing mini-movie will make you think twice before plucking a tree out of the ground and jamming it into your house for a few pointless weeks. Or, at the very least, it’ll make you laugh a few times and squeal “ewwww” a few more. Hats off to schlock-lovin’ director Jason Eisener for capturing in 15 minutes what many filmmakers can’t pull off in 80.