Thursday, June 19, 2014
DEAD SNOW: RED VS. DEAD (2014) movie review
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead (aka Dead Snow 2) (2014) d. Tommy Wirkola (Norway)
I was a huge fan of Wirkola’s silly but enjoyable 2009 Nazi zombie epic, so as increasingly resistant as I’ve become to the pervasive sequel-itis that haunts every semi-successful release, I was eager to see how a return to his Norwegian roots would serve the young filmmaker (especially following his recent Hollywood stint with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). The result is a decidedly mixed bag, one that provides as many groans as cheers, but since they all come at a machine gun pace, you don’t have to long to wait for the next splattery curve ball to come by and whack you in the kisser. I’d hoped for better, but there’s nothing so wrong that a good pair of editing shears couldn’t fix, so returning fans of the snowbound SS shamblers should find plenty to enjoy.
Picking up immediately where the first film ended, lone survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) is still fleeing the jackbooted undead horde, but through a series of automotives mishaps, he awakens in the local hospital with the lifeless arm of his primary nemesis, Herzog (Orjan Gamst), stitched on in place of his own. In the tradition of ill-advised transplant movies everywhere, the limb possesses a “life” of its own, and is soon wreaking havoc on the unsuspecting staff and patients, including a hilariously over-the-top offing of a member of the short pants set.
This irreverent approach pervades throughout, as the logic gets looser and the set-pieces get juicier. Martin hooks up with a WWII museum staff member Glenn (original cast member Stig Frode Henriksen, returning in a different role) and his zombie-fu-empowered hand starts inexplicably serving its new master, allowing him to revive a squadron of Russian army members – fronted by “new Jason” Derek Mears – to take the fight to Herzog’s swastika-sporting sonsabitches.
The ensuing battle (and the collateral damage inflicted on the neighboring citizens) is the picture’s true raison de etre, with lacerations, eviscerations, and obliterations galore. The fact that the infirm and the elderly are often the focus of the carnage is all part of the sick joke, and darned if it isn’t funny much of the time. (The frequent homophobic jests at Glenn’s expense, not so much.)
However, the biggest problems of the Wirkola-Hoel-Henriksen script lie in the inclusion of three American nerds (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas) making up what’s known as “The Zombie Squad” in the struggles between the undead and the living. Now, I’m not taking issue with the inclusion of English-speaking Yanks on mere principle; after all, any half-assed Google search will turn up dozens of similar organizations purportedly prepared to do take on the zombie apocalypse. The flaw is that these characters a) aren’t prepared, and b) their lack of preparedness is not mocked or sent up. Hell, they aren’t even really zombie nerds, as DeBoer’s character keeps making Star Wars references, for crying out loud!
The whole Zombie Squad enterprise is so lazy and haphazard that for any genuine zombie fans (presumably the film’s target audience), every scrap of dialogue spilling from their North American gobs is nails on a chalkboard. Would it have been so hard to reference Lucio Fulci or Jorge Grau, just to throw a bone to those in the know? (Especially since one of the selling points of the original film was the abundance of sly and occasionally blatant nods to earlier classics.) Something intelligent and/or inspired might have been made of this subplot, but instead, we’re simply forced to suffer until the subtitles kick back in.
This latest installment feels much bigger and much dumber overall, so it seems Wirkola learned something from Hollywood after all. Let’s just hope he’s gotten it out of his system.