Dead Snow 2 – Red vs. Dead (Død snø 2)
Norway (2014) Dir. Tommy Wirkola
The horror genre is a tough one in which to create fresh ideas and the success of certain sub-genres will lead to an over-saturated market. Tommy Wirkola’s 2009 homage to the classic Evil Dead saw the zombie concept given a new twist by making his undead Nazi soldiers!
This pitch black comedy – about the awakening of the Teutonic terrors looking to reclaiming their treasure from a group of holidaying friends – has begat a sequel which benefits from a larger budget as illustrated by the huge scale finale. Thankfully we find Wirkola back on fine form after his disappointing Hollywood effort Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters.
Picking up the story directly from the end of the first film, Martin (Vegar Hoel), the sole survivor of the zombie carnage, is escaping via car with an unwanted passenger, Nazi leader Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) who loses an arm in the struggle. Martin eventually wakes up in hospital after crashing the car to find he has been charged with the murder of his friends. At least the surgeon managed to reattach his arm – except the arm was actually Herzog’s and now it acts on its own accord.
After escaping from hospital Martin makes contact with the Zombie Squad, three nerdy siblings from America – Daniel (Martin Starr), Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Blake (Ingrid Haas) – who travel to Norway to help destroy Herzog. They go in search of the bodies of Russian POWs Herzog wiped out, to resurrect them with the power of Herzog’s arm and form an opposing army to even the odds against the new army Herzog is raising of his own.
If the first Dead Snow film was in tribute to Sam Raimi’s cult outings films then this sequel possesses more than a nod or two to Edgar Wright’s Shaun Of The Dead while remaining its own film. However while Wright’s film was a real tongue-in-cheek affair Wirkola pushes the boundaries of good taste in both humour and graphic violence with this film. No-one – I mean literally no-one – is immune from a gory and unpleasant demise be they adults, children, the elderly, the handicapped, even babies!
Don’t worry the latter isn’t shown in any explicit detail but it is one of those moments where you find yourself laughing then immediately ridden with guilt for doing so, which is par for the course with this film. Other moments such as the vomiting zombie who then east said regurgitation will possibly have you replicating at least fifty percent of that act. This is an extreme example of the gallows humour on display but since the overall tone is excessive one just accepts it for the ridiculousness that it is.
Wirkola has been a bit more adventurous with his story this time round beyond rampaging Nazi zombies with the treasure now a concluded issue and their new motivation, the total destruction of the small town as per Hitler’s orders 70 years before. Herzog discovers that he still has the ability to resurrect the dead despite Martin now owning his arm, so he raids a few graveyards for some new soldiers, as well as killing innocent bystanders then resurrecting them as his mindless followers.
Martin is a little late in discovering the powers of Herzog’s arm for himself as he has trouble controlling it from acting independently but this rogue strength will soon prove useful. Martin is joined by a reluctant gay museum worker Glenn (Stig Frode Henriksen), the zombie squad and a zombie he accidentally revived (Kristoffer Joner), whose rechargeable life cycle has multiple uses which are the centre of many visual – and eye watering – gags.
The addition of the Americans is presumably a ploy to help the film appeal to international (read: US) audiences in the wake of the aforementioned Hansel & Gretel (a sequel to which is in the works) establishing Wirkola’s name for those who would normally avoid foreign language films. I’m not entirely convinced they add anything of any true except the previously alluded to Shaun Of The Dead references and maybe a chance to mock the stereotypical US nerd film characterisation.
Of similar distraction is arrogant but incompetent police chief Gunga (Hallvard Holmen) whose pursuit of Martin is foiled buy the zombie battle royale at the climax of the film. Aside from a few giggles this is a running gag that loses steam after a while, made more bearable by the presence of Gunga’s attractive female officer and comic foil Reidun (Amrita Acharia).
But we can forgive this as the sheer scope of the gory action compensates, bold in its ambition and large scale execution. Bodies are hacked, sliced, squashed, crushed, flung and blown to pieces on a regular basis with plenty of spilled claret, while the final showdown is a clash for the ages between the two zombie armies, with some human interaction thrown in for good measure. Maybe not the battle of Helms Deep but a riotous scrap with an impressive body count.
In Vegar Hoel we have a guy who can do it all, proving himself as a great comic actor as well as potential action star. He can throw a mean punch and gets stuck in on the physical stuff whilst demonstrating an astute flair for comedy. He is note perfect as Martin, as well as fluently bilingual, so don’t be surprised if he crosses over to Hollywood like many of his Scandinavian peers have.
Dead Snow worked because it was an earnest comic-horror which knew its limitations while playing to its strengths as well as having a great concept at its heart. Dead Snow 2 is the glossy sequel which makes the most of its increased budget and while it lacks some of the earthiness from the first film, it more than makes up for it in glorious bombast and twisted graphic violence.
Not for the faint hearted or the easily offended but tremendous fun for the rest of us!