Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Død snø / Dead Snow (2009).

What with the UK being a snowy place right now, it seemed appropriate to get this posted. Watching this film and writing the bare bones of the review was how I spent my New Year's Eve. Let it never be said the life of a horror blogger isn't a glamorous one...

Aptly, for a film set in snowbound climes, Dead Snow takes a while to warm up. Once it does though, it's a lot of fun. And goo. You know I love me some goo.

A group of medical students go on an Easter break to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, Norway. They end up with a few extra house guests, however, in the form of a massive horde of killer undead Nazis!


The zombies are hungry for the Nazi gold which happens to be sitting in the cabin's basement, and they probably aren't gonna let a little thing like fragile human life stand in the way of them getting it.

It's mentioned a few times that one of the male characters, despite studying to be a doctor, is squeamish around blood - three guesses who's gonna end up the Final Boy?

But wait a minute, this is not a film to watch for displays of subtlety. Dead Snow manages to hit a very tricky mark, by being extremely derivative and yet not at all irritating with it. This is most likely down to everything being played pretty straight. There are a lot of funny moments, but with an innocence to the comedic set-ups, rather than a self-awareness.

Put simply (although doing the film something of a disservice by reducing it so) the film is a parade of horror clichés. Spot them as they appear! Log cabin. Check. Overuse of musical stings and jump scares. Check. Seemingly crazy stranger giving some unprompted back story. Yes, he's here too.

You have to admire director Tommy Wirkola cutting right to the meat with the latter, in fact. The stranger whose sole purpose is to warn the reckless young things of the potential danger they are in, is given absolutely no introduction or explanation; he just comes in, tells a tale, acts a bit weird and then leaves.

Unfortunately, once he has done his job, he becomes expendable. This image and subtitle juxtaposition made me laugh:

A glaringly obvious influence on this film is my friend and yours, a certain Mr. Sam Raimi. There are countless direct homages to his style in crash zoom suiting up sequences - which, despite being something of a one trick pony scene-wise, I never seem to tire of - and the first two Evil Dead flicks are also mentioned by name, near the start of the film.

We are in familiar but well loved territory here folks, where ghouls are nasty and super-strong and humans are nothing but vulnerable meatsacks. People get torn limb from limb with ease. It's entertainment at its best!

Like Dylan Moran before him, in a scene which marks the hysterical new levels of gore the film will reach, the geek of the group gets pulled out of the window and disemboweled before his horrified friends. Well, technically it should be "disembrained". It's fair to say that this was a 'sit forward in seat, eyes wide, smile spreading on face' moment.

I have that jelly mold.

The characters themselves are less stereotypical than one would expect, in a film so chock full of horror chestnuts. They are a bland bunch, though likeable enough. I didn't find myself particularly wanting any of them to survive... but that's kind of the point. It's not really about hoping anyone makes it, it's about seeing who's next to paint the snow red.


And what a stunning, inspired canvas for the carnage it is. The dazzling white showing up both the gore (bloody beautiful!) and the Nazi zombs to startling effect.

This film features much intestine-specific bloodshed. I don't think I have ever been able to say that before.

Not included in these caps are the scenes of a character dangling off of a cliff using a zombie's large intestine as a bungee rope and a POV shot of a girl drowsily watching one of the undead have a rummage around in her... well, her.

Are you hearing me yet? Are you won over? No? Fine. I've give you more reasons:
  • Usually in a horror film you only get one decent instance of a wound that actually pumps blood. It's a bit of a showy thing so it only tends to happen the once. In Dead Snow, it's the norm.
  • There's a prolonged scene of a victim sewing up his own neck wound.
  • The FX are a mix of practical and CG. Some of the latter is a bit sub-par if you are picky like I am, but it doesn't take away from the heart of the flick. It's about fun. It's about splatter and giggles and there are more than enough instances of people getting a face full of thick, disgusting-looking globs of stuff, that I can let the ropey CGI work slide, gladly.
  • Sound is put to fantastic use: the crunch of snow, the animalistic noises of the dead (here they have more range than your standard groans), the power tools as weapons, splurging of guts and... silence. In key moments the soundscape is left completely empty and it really makes a difference. Think about it, if you had turned off your chainsaw for a moment, and the attacking zombies on the snow covered mountain weren't charging at you yet, it would be completely silent. Effective and realistic!
  • Imagine hiding up a tree, thinking you have outsmarted your assailants, then glancing down and seeing this:
Graaarrggh! Horrible and brill!

Aaand I'm spent. Just know that you have to see this film.

I don't usually link to trailers in my reviews, but this one showcases the film perfectly. If you still don't want to see it after reading the above and watching this, then I kind of don't understand why you read my blog...


  1. So glad you enjoyed this one, I loved it when I saw it. Cant think of many films that have that many intestines in them. :-)

  2. I had been recommended it by so may people that the pressure was on to like it! But like it I did. And it just kept getting better and better! There's loads of other brill moments I haven't even mentioned in this review :D