Dead Snow

“Of course she hung up on you! You sounded as though you’ve been smoking your underpants!”

That line comes late in Tommy Wirkola’s schizoid splatter opus, Dead Snow, after a character tries to tell a 911 operator that he and his friends are under siege by a legion of SS walking dead — and in the process of escaping, they accidentally set fire to their cabin.

Vegard and his friends — including a girl with dirty dreadlocks and a fat guy with an impossibly hot girlfriend — hole up in a snowbound cabin for a weekend of fun. One night, a drifter conveniently shows up and tells a story about a troop of German soldiers that pilfered gold and silver from villagers in the area during WWII. The loot went missing, and now, the undead soldiers roam the area looking for it. (This, of course, begs the question how someone could own a remote cabin for years and never once come across conspicuous nazi zombies, but never mind that detail.) The drifter is ominous in his warning: Don’t get bitten. For God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t get bitten. No sooner does the drifter leave, than the soldiers appear, popping up from the snow and out of the woods, and chow down on every bit of flesh they can get their mangled hands on.

All of this leads to a spectacular showdown between humans and zombies, and the gore level here is on par with the original Dawn of the Dead and The Evil Dead: bodies explode, heads are ripped in two, and limbs are torn asunder; there’s a chainsaw, a hammer, knives, and countless other sharp instruments involved. All of this is told with a surprising level of style, including some terrific cinematography and seamless make-up effects. The characters riff on classic horror movie cliches, like when their cell phones conveniently lose signal and they proceed to name films where the same thing happens. And the movie is loaded with clever dialogue: At one point, a freshly-bitten character laments that he’s not long for the world and will surely turn into a zombie. His friend tries to be helpful: “Your uncle is half-Jewish, right? I don’t think you’re exactly the kind of person they want on their side.”

There are a few minor annoyances in Dead Snow. The subtitles look as though they were written by a 3rd-grade ESL student, and there’s a scene involving an outhouse that is so disgusting, it actually made me physically ill; you’ll know it when it happens. Minor gripes aside, however, it was nice to see a clever, well-made zombie flick, since one so rarely ever comes along that isn’t completely derivative.

2009; starring Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner; directed by Tommy Wirkola; 91 min; in Norwegian w/ English subtitles.

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