Dead Snow is probably the biggest disappointment of the year. The
concept – zombie Nazis attacking a snowbound group in the mountains –
is amazing. The design of the Nazi zombies themselves, especially their
leader, is terrific, and the movie isn’t afraid to splatter the gore
and disembowel the cast. But all of these things can not make up for
the fact that Dead Snow is quite simply a very, very shitty movie.
There’s having influences and then there’s just simply aping other
movies; director Tommy Wirkola has absolutely no style of his own and
instead regurgitates shots and camera gags used by Sam Raimi, Peter
Jackson and Edgar Wright before him. You could argue (and be right)
that both Jackson and Wright were heavily influenced by Raimi, but each
of those filmmakers has taken that influence and done something
uniquely their own with it. Those filmmakers share similar DNA but you
can tell their work apart on sight, while Wirkola’s goal seems to be
getting mistaken for one of them.
If there’s anyone he’s ripping off the most it’s Edgar Wright. Where
Wright (and his writing partner Simon Pegg) gave the zombie genre a
self-aware jolt of life Wirkola simply drags it down with his litany of
references. Dead Snow reminded me of Family Guy or Epic Movie –
something where the reference is the be-all end-all and where the
frisson comes not from integrating a recognizable element but just from
recognizing the element. The one upside of Wirkola mercilessly aping
Wright is that the film often looks great, and he takes excellent
advantage of the natural grandeur of the mountains in winter.
But how can he not take excellent advantage of such a foolproof
concept? If there’s one thing I didn’t expect when sitting down for
Dead Snow, it was to be bored out of my fucking skull. Dead Snow‘s
characters are paper thin, excruciatingly irritating weiners; waiting
for them to die is the source of all the movie’s suspense, because
you’re thinking ‘Holy Christ, how long must I spend with these
assholes? How much can I take? When this movie is over who in the
audience will survive, and what will be left of them?’ They’re a
generic crop of Aryan fuckfaces, except for the fat nerdy audience
identification character who – and I swear to God this happens in the
movie – gets fucked by the hottest girl in the cabin WHILE HE IS TAKING
A SHIT. I don’t know what’s going on in Tommy Wirkola’s mind, but I
wish he would stop putting it on celluloid. I think this scene is
supposed to be funny, but like much of the humor in this supposedly
comedic zombie movie, it sucks ass.
Once the zombies show up in a big, fast way (they run), things sort of
pick up. But only in terms of technical interest; the gore effects are
well done, but the gore gags themselves don’t feel all too clever. It’s
obvious from the sheer amounts of entrails on display that Wirkola
wasn’t shooting for a rating, so you would hope that he would have done
something more shocking, funny or cool with his kills. One kill is
great – a victim keeps running even as their intestines unravel behind
them – but most are boring.
What’s most boring, though, is that these Nazi zombies are pointless.
They could have just been zombies for all the inherent Naziness going
on. At first I was looking for the Romero-esque social commentary – was
Wirkola saying that the Nazi menaces still lurks just below the surface
in Europe, ready to be thawed? Was there some kind of satire happening?
Would all of the victims turn out to be Jewish, even? No. Nothing like
that. I’m assuming Wirkola and his team thought Nazis were cool
looking; they probably were unaware that Nazi zombies had already been
done in Shock Waves.
Here’s the social commentary I got from Dead Snow: It must be sad to be
a genre fan in Norway. I got the same feeling about Icelandic fans from
watching Astropia, a truly wretched movie I caught at last year’s
Fantastic Fest. Both of these films are drowning in American genre
references, and you wonder if people in these countries are making
their own genre stuff or just endlessly quoting our genre stuff. It’s
great to see a Norwegian filmmaker making a zombie movie, but what’s
inherently Norwegian about Dead Snow? The Simpsons quotes? The Evil
Dead references? Fuck, even Nazis come from Germany. I love the idea
that people across the world are grooving on the same movies that I
grew up on, but I wish that these people were taking those movies and
adding their own specific spin. I love seeing foreign films coming to
these shores bearing the mark of American genre entertainment but with
a totally strange local flavor that could never come from Hollywood.
Dead Snow is flavorless.