Director: Tommy Wirkola
In November of 2009 I dropped $40 on a Canadian DVD of Tommy Wirkola's original "Dead Snow." It was in a steelbook case, to boot. I found the film unexpectedly sitting on the shelf at my local Bullmoose Music, a store which usually doesn't carry import titles. Why they had this one I still don't exactly know. Finding the title came as a welcome surprise, because "Dead Snow" was still playing on video on demand here in the United States, and I always love when I get titles on DVD or Blu-ray "early." $40 was a high price to pay for a DVD in 2009, but I'd heard good things about "Dead Snow" and I simply couldn't help myself.
Not waiting until I had time to watch it, I made time that night and popped that bad boy in as soon as I got home. Once the film started, though, the excitement dissipated. Not only were the subtitles on this particular Canadian DVD extremely fast and riddled with errors, but the film itself was a bit of a letdown. I can't say for certain if the subtitles took away from the experience at all, but I just found the film to be unexciting.
Fast forward almost exactly five years later and I couldn't help myself again. Despite my feelings on the original, I pushed the "BUY" button on my cable box and ordered the sequel to "Dead Snow," titled "Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead." "Dead Snow 2" begins right where the original "Dead Snow" left off. The only surviving member of the original group from the first film, Martin (Vegar Hoel), has managed to escape the Nazi zombies, minus an arm, by giving them back their gold. Except, for one piece, which somehow got stuck somewhere within Martin's clothes. Needless to say, the Nazi zombies won't stand for that, and come after Martin for that one final piece.
In the process of going for that one final gold piece, lead zombie Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) manages to get his own arm ripped off in a car accident, and Martin manages to end up in the hospital with Colonel Herzog's arm attached to him. Martin gains zombie powers from having this arm attached. But beyond Martin, Colonel Herzog and his zombie soldiers have a bigger goal: to destroy a town in Norway that the Nazis were assigned to demolish during World War II.
Right from the get-go, Wirkola's sequel is crazier, more violent, and far funnier than its predecessor. More importantly, though, Wirkola approaches the content in a fearless manner, more akin to Troma than anything else these days. The first "Dead Snow" relied too much on obvious and stale references to other cinematic works (Colonel Herzog...get it?), and while Wirkola did improve and create his own style with "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters," it still felt a bit tame. "Dead Snow 2" manages to go the extra mile, setting up unexpected background characters only to have them violently, and humorously, massacred seconds later by Nazi zombies. I am by no means a fan of gore for the sake of gore, but the way Wirkola approaches the violence is reminiscent of Peter Jackson in his prime. Intestines are pulled and pulled and pulled (on more than one occasion), people are run over by a tank, heads are stomped, and in one special moment a Mercedes star is used like a ninja star. A ninja star. Women, children, the elderly, and everyone in between gets it and gets it bad.
In this triumph, though, the film ultimately finds its flaw. These violent, over the top sequences are where the film thrives. Outside of those moments, there are some hit or miss jokes that are worth a chuckle at best, some characters that are solely used to set up and deliver hit or miss jokes, and a plot that, let's be honest, doesn't matter so much because it's a film about Nazi zombies. Fortunately, most of the film revolves around those hilarious, over-the-top moments that truly work.
Tommy Wirkola is a director who is developing a style that needs to exist in horror right now. It's that slice of comedy and horror that has been missing for years and that was unfortunately replaced by boring, more "serious" fare. When I want to see a horror movie, I want to see something that entertains, and "Dead Snow 2" certainly does. Maybe Wirkola's not a master quite yet, but "Dead Snow 2" is a marked improvement over his previous efforts, and I would definitely buy a $40 Canadian steelbook of this film in a heartbeat.
"Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead" is currently available in theaters and on demand courtesy of Well Go USA.