Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tommy Wirkola's DEAD SNOW: more gore, a few laughs, and introducing...

...Nazi zombies! (No, we're not talking about Tom Cruise in Valkyrie.) What is it about these two words used in tandem that promises such fun? Their quality of onomatopoeia? Holocaust meets Hellzapoppin'? The possibility of high camp? Or maybe, at last, an admission of how fitting this coupling is -- as the Nazis, early on, gave up their last vestige of humanity. All I've had to do is mention

aloud DEAD SNOW as "that movie about Nazi zombies" to induce ears to prick up and eyes to twinkle. If only the movie itself delivered on the delight of its premise and promise.

It begins well enough: The first credit we see on screen (the names of the film's three production companies) actually drew a laugh at the screening. Then we get a fairly scary, if by-the-numbers, opening scene, and away we go into.... some very tired cliches gussied up with state-of-the-art gore effects. What co-writer (with Stig Frode Henriksen)/director Tommy Wirkola (shown above) has done is cobble together a kind of Friday-the-13th-meets-zombies-in-a-cold-climate. From almost the outset, the movie is self-referential to a fault, with the characters mentioning other similar films (naturally, a movie geek is included among them) and telling us how this group is different. If only. The cast differs from the norm by looking older and fatter than Hollywood would ever dare foist on genre film-goers. Worse, its cute banter quickly begins to bore.

You may wonder, as did I, from whence these Nazi zombies came, since the film is from -- and takes place in -- Norway. Not to worry: we soon get the scene with "the grizzled old man" who proceeds to explain all the necessary exposition in excruciatingly long and boring detail, complete with a don't-disturb-the-evil-spirits warning, which he himself then proceeds to totally ignore. When the killings start, the only question -- a recurring one, unfortunately -- is who gets his/hers, when/how? There are a few laughs along the way but none are really very funny. They're just a little obvious and cheesy, as is the gore and, in fact, the entire movie.

There is rumor afoot that this film reinvents the zombie genre. Don't believe it. Dead Snow simply rejiggers what we've seen (and seen again), adding extra dollops of blood, guts, jokes and sex -- the latter via a scene (below) that takes outhouse humor to new depths. At least there's no video-cam recording these events: Wirkola spares us "The Dead Snow Diary." (For the real reinvention of the genre, see the much-superior Pontypool, which is also currently playing round-about in theaters and On-Demand.)

The movie's one somewhat original touch -- which has to do with zombie (or is it German?) avarice and proves an important (if we can even use such a heavy-duty word here) plot point -- actually serves to call attention to the weakness of said non-plot. What turned these Nazis into zombies? We never know. (Even the movie's title, though short and marketable, makes no sense: dead snow? Just how, pray tell, does that differ from live snow? By the finale, it looks as if an entire platoon (or three) of Germans has risen from its collective grave. Well, if the Nazis can do it, why not the Allies? And so, for the sequel, which I am sure is already in the works, I request a WWII rematch -- using zombies!

Dead Snow opens theatrically on Friday, June 19, at NYC's Cinema Village (this is a correction from my earlier -- and wrong -- post that had the film playing at the IFC Center), and has already been available for the past week On-Demand via IFC at these venues:
BrightHouse: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Cablevision: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Charter: Movies On Demand - Channel 1 - movies - IFC in Theaters
Comcast: Channel 1 - Movies & Events - IFC Festival Direct
Cox: Channel 1 - Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters
Insight: Channel 1 - Movies On Demand - IFC in Theaters
Time Warner: Movies On Demand - IFC In Theaters

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