Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Dead Snow Review
I managed to find a copy of Dead Snow that I have wanted to see for a while now. I watched it this weekend (twice actually as a friend wanted to see it too) and decided to review it. But first, just what happens?
The movie opens with a girl getting chased through the woods by some unseen evil and she eventually falls down a steep incline and is devoured by something we don't fully see. We then find 7 friends heading up to a remote cabin in the Scandinavian mountains for a fun filled weekend. As they settle in for their first night, a strange man comes to their cabin asking for some coffee. He tells them a story of how the village near the cabin was once occupied by Nazis during WWII and they weren't kind to the villagers. However, the villagers rose up against them and drove the Nazis into the very same mountains this cabin was in. It was said the Nazis, knowing they would have to retreat, grabbed all the valuables from the village and hid somewhere up in the peaks. Of course the kids (who are all Med students) don't believe in that sort of story and the stranger is on his way.
After their first night, they realize their friend who was supposedly hiking to the cabin hasn't shown up yet, so her boyfriend goes to look for her (of course, this was the first girl we saw getting killed). The boyfriend finds our stranger gutted in his tent and falls into a cave where Nazi memorabilia abounds. Meanwhile, his friends back at the cabin find a box of treasure (I wonder where that came from) and rejoice. All at once, there are NAZI ZOMBIES attacking their cabin and the guy in the cave! As some of the kids get picked off, we are treated to eviscerations, heads being pulled apart, decapitations, a machine gun mounted on a snowmobile, and just general anarchy. But, did the movie produce any fun or scares?
Cinematography: I don't know if it's that the Scandinavian mountains make directors look good or vice versa, but some of the shots in this movie are actually quite breathtaking. The long shots for some of the scenes give you a great sense of how epic the scale is and the isolation these friends face. The sheer lack of overt color in both the scenery (mostly snow and trees) and the zombies (very drab, dirty uniforms) is contrasted wonderfully by the kids' clothing and the blood in the fight scenes. The shot scale is varied and quite well done, never really relying on one type of shot for any particular scene. And there are no real shaky cam parts (in fact, the tracking shots of running through woods are quite smooth in most parts). I give it a nice, solid 4 out of 5 for Cinematography.
Execution: Well, technically we've seen Nazi Zombies before, but I still think there aren't enough Nazi Zombie movies to really call this tired or done to death. I am still willing to call this original, especially because of the back story and the fact they aren't in Germany. It's a nice little twist on a zombie film and the zombies don't really bite all that much, instead preferring to punch, kick, or stab people (which makes for some great fight scenes). The characters aren't anything groundbreaking (movie geek, horny guy, horny girl, mild mannered dude, jock type), but they aren't overwrought, making them enjoyable. You start to like the characters, but you don't get too invested in them. They are all well acted, so it gets a respectable 4 out of 5 for Execution.
Sub-genre Comparison: Comparing this to other zombie movies is kind of hard because they aren't like traditional zombies. However, it definitely holds up against some of the heavy hitters (Night, Dawn, Shaun) for sheer enjoyability. It's not a particularly scary offering, but then again it's not trying to be either. Comparing it to recent zombie offerings such as Day of the Dead or Diary of the Dead and it more than holds up. It's a fun little twist on the zombie tradition, so comparatively it gets a 4.5 out of 5 for Sub-genre Comparison.
Production Value: The settings are great, the effects are first-rate, and the acting is more than ample. It looks very polished and is done well, making it very easy to watch. They went for mostly traditional effects for gore, using CGI pretty sparingly (something I appreciate greatly). The movie is pretty gory, so for you gore-hounds, it should satisfy nicely. The scenes where Nazi after Nazi is mowed down with hatchets, sledgehammers, and chainsaws are grotesquely pleasing, offering all manners of limbs and entrails flying through the air. It's all kinds of fun to watch, so it gladly earns a 4.5 out of 5 for Production Value.
Scares: This movie isn't really meant to be that scary, opting to be a bit more towards the funny spectrum, but it still actually produces some good, tense scenes. There is an out house at the cabin, which makes for some great, Friday the 13th style scenes with people stalking around the shack and looking through the boards. There is a scene where someone is looking through a window at their friend outside, only to find out that it's only her severed head being held up that is extremely well done. Basically, when the movie wants to be scary, it succeeds pretty damn well, so I'll give it a 4 out of 5 for Scares, taking into account it's not supposed to be the scariest thing in the world.
So, the final tally for Dead Snow puts it at a 21 out of 25. That puts it into the "Must Watch" category, as far as I am concerned. As I said, I watched it twice this weekend and I gleefully enjoyed both viewings. It's got so many fun scenes once the action starts that I couldn't help but laugh. And the homages it throws out are great too, so be sure to watch for some of those. It amazes me at not only how much fun it was, but how well done it was. It wasn't just a fanboy making a movie, it was a director (who happens to also be a fanboy) making a film. This movie is a blast, I highly recommend watching it when it gets here to the US! And in a movie full of ridiculous scenes, I give you the most ridiculous as further proof you need to see this movie!