Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Dead Snow - Film review

With their black leather jackets and death’s head badges, there’s no denying that the Nazis looked kind of cool, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are a symbol of all that is wrong with humanity and a cinematic villain that audiences love to hate. That may explain why three Nazi killing splatter fests are being released this summer; Iron Sky, Inglorious Basterds and from Norway the ridiculous Nazi zombie flick, Dead snow. Set in the desolate mountain regions of Norway, a snow sports holiday goes horribly wrong for a group of young friends when they encounter an army of undead Nazis from WWII.

This film is a composite of cheesy horror clich├ęs. But the film is conscious of its own predictability and features a character named Erland, a zombie film fanatic who points out the obvious plot technique of opening a film with a group of friends heading to a remote cabin. Even going so far as to name drop the movies that writer and director Tommy Wirkola felt it necessary to plagiarise. The character is later disemboweled shortly after a bizarre toilet sex scene, thus fulfilling the tired conventions of a genre that desperately requires creative innovation to remain relevant.

The only original aspect of this horror film is the inclusion of Nazis, but watching the film one can’t help but wonder at the meaning of it all. Are the Nazis rising from the dead a metaphor for a revival of right wing politics that needs once more to be put to death? Or is it simply that Nazis are the only human villains who it is acceptable to depict being torn asunder by chainsaws and machine guns? Whatever the reasoning behind the ludicrous plot, it has more holes than a bullet ridden zombie corpse. The Nazi resurrection is attributed to the fact that the group of youths find some stolen Nazi gold. Kind of a curse of the Mummie’s tomb deal. Personally, I always find the nuclear radiation or voodoo magic explanations of zombism easier to swallow.

Those who want nothing more than a blood soaked, brain splattered orgy of violence peppered with a few cheap jokes will be thrilled. The cinematography and building of suspense is at times more mature and intense than the infantile plot warrants. The bleak, featureless, snow covered peaks of Norway provide a superbly atmospheric setting for a horror film, and Wirkola knows how to get the best from the landscape. But breathtaking imagery cannot excuse a plot this lazy, or such brief and shallow characterisation. I find myself caring less and less for the fate of the two dimensional Nordic youths as they are killed off one by one until ultimately I just wish I was watching Evil Dead instead.

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