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When a group of medical students take a sex-and-booze-fueled ski vacation to a remote cabin, they uncover a dark secret from WWII that resurrects a battalion of uncontrollable, unstoppable and extremely undead Nazis. What follows is a blitzkrieg of bloodshed, body parts, and action-packed zombie carnage.
For more about Dead Snow and the Dead Snow Blu-ray release, see the Dead Snow Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on February 20, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jenny Skavlan, Jeppe Beck Laursen, Lasse Valdal
Director: Tommy Wirkola
» See full cast & crew
Dead Snow Blu-ray Review
Frozen ground, yes. New ground? No.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, February 20, 2010
What's with the spate of Nazi zombies all of the sudden? Recent videogame Call of Duty: World at War includes a multiplayer mode dedicated to mowing down waves of Third Reich revenants. In 2008, low-budget British chiller Outpost found a band of mercenaries infiltrating a bunker teeming with the SS undead. And now, we have Dead Snow, a Norwegian splatterfest about a battalion of resurrected, swastika-emblazoned soldiers terrorizing a group of vacationing med-school students. Don't get me wrong; the amalgamation makes total sense. While not quite as commercially lucrative as combining vampires and bare-chested teen heartthrobs—the current craze—the pairing of Nazis and zombies is, or should be, pure horror gold. Both are soulless, lacking humanity, and intuitively scary. Combined, they create the ultimate in villainy: revived, tirelessly cannibalistic corpses with a racist ideology that's tinged with occultic connotations and rightfully reviled as evil incarnate. If any creature deserves a chainsaw to the face, it's a Nazi zombie, which is why Dead Snow, for all its flaws, is still a visceral overload of geeky fun.
Now, there's nothing new about Nazi zombies. Genre fans should be familiar with Peter Cushing and John Carradine's 1977 cult chiller Shock Waves, about a party yacht that runs afoul of a ghost ship filled with "Der Toten Korps," a cadre of long-lost SS soldiers who are "neither dead or alive, but somewhere in between." Likewise, 1981 gave us three schlocky, Nazi-centric, low-budget exploits, Zombie Lake, Oasis of the Zombies, and Night of the SS Zombies. (None of which are any good.) Even the idea of frozen Nazi zombies isn't unique to Dead Snow, as 1966's The Frozen Dead—arguably the first Nazi zombie film— features a crackpot scientist trying to literally revive the Third Reich by thawing out soldiers who were willingly iced at the end of the war. Then again, Dead Snow doesn't make any claims to be original, and it even willingly acknowledges that it's basically the same old clichéd horror scenario that we've seen countless times before.
Stop me if you've heard this one: a group of horny 20-somethings travels out to a cabin the middle of nowhere, where they plan to booze it up, play some Twister, and pair off surreptitiously to get it on. Well, that's Dead Snow. The sex-addled youngsters are med-school students on Easter holiday, the cabin is on a remote, snow-covered peak near Øksfjord, Norway, and the hasty couplings take place, disgustingly enough, in the cabin's chilly outhouse. The characters have just enough personality to make them stand out from the icy scenery. We have the all- around good guy, waiting patiently for his girlfriend to arrive via cross-country skis. (The tragic irony being that we see her get eaten in the first scene of the film.) There's a guy who cracks dirty jokes, another who grows queasy at the sight of blood, and the obligatory nerd, a portly blond—like a young, Norwegian Phillip Seymour Hoffman—who wears a Braindead t-shirt and notes how the group's situation seems exactly like the set-up for a horror film. Oh really? And, of course, there's a trio of Nordic beauties who have little to do but look pretty and, eventually, scream. For awhile it's all fun and games—snowmobile races, sled rides, snowball fights—but the beer-fueled party gets pooped when a scraggly-faced wanderer (Bjørn Sundquist) shows up to warn the gang of an "evil presence" on the mountain. Shortly thereafter, what do the kids find but a chest full of stolen Nazi gold stashed in the cabin's crawlspace. Thus, the undead soldiers come running.
When the legions of decaying Deutschländers are inevitably unleashed, the film's stolid and slow first act gives way to a non-stop goregasm of zombie violence, with gallons of crimson blood arterially spurting onto the virgin snow. Sam Raimi's Evil Dead II and Peter Jackson's Braindead (a.k.a. Dead Alive) are clearly director Tommy Wirkola's most treasured inspirations, as the film aspires to maintain that tricky horror/comedy balance, where the ridiculously over-the- top bloodshed is disgusting and hilarious in equal measures. And for the most part, he succeeds. Dead Snow seems a bit too affected in its attempts to be a latter-day cult classic—cult films just happen, you can't force them—but the film is genuinely funny and gorehounds will sniff out a lot to love. A skull gets forcibly pried open, sending the brain rolling out onto the floor, gutted zombies leak steaming piles of viscera, limbs are torn, hacked, and sawed asunder, a ghoulish face is grated into pulp by a snowmobile's spinning wheels, a chainsaw-severed arm is cauterized on an open flame, and in a moment of Looney Toons-meets-butcher shop deliriousness, one character dangles over a cliff, using a dispatched zombie's unspooled intestines as a slimy, slippery rope. There's no end to the insanity.
If you're looking for a coherent explanation for how these Nazis became zombies or why they're so enamored with a tiny chest filled with gold, you're barking up the wrong bloody tree. None is given. If character development, empathy, and a riveting narrative are even remotely important to your enjoyment of a movie, try a Merchant Ivory film instead. If plot holes give you aneurisms and horror clichés send you into epileptic fits, avoid at all costs. If, however, you're looking for a simple splatter comedy to be enjoyed in the company of a few moderately inebriated friends— alcohol almost seems like a prerequisite for this kind of film—Dead Snow fits the bill.
Dead Snow Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shot natively on high-definition video, Dead Snow makes the transition to this 1.85:1- framed, 1080p/AVC encode quite easily, with an image that's crisp and low on digital noise. At times the image is strikingly sharp, especially when it comes to rendering facial texture—see the rivulets of blood that fill pores and wrinkles—and clothing detail, like the fine weft of a tightly woven ski cap. Color-wise, as you'll notice from most of the screenshots, the film has a distinctly desaturated appearance that's occasionally broken by bold splashes of bright red in the form of ski coats, the chainsaw, the snowmobile, and of course, the gallons of gooey crimson viscera. The only time this changes is indoors, where the image has a more balanced, natural look. Because of the color timing, the image does look quite artificial at times, but this seems to be the intent, and suitably deep black levels give the picture a tight sense of contrast. Of course, since Dead Snow was shot on video, it sometimes demonstrates the medium's shortcomings. White highlights are occasionally blown-out—almost an inevitability considering all the snow—and fine detail can look a bit overly edgy. Still, noise is limited to only the darkest of scenes, and nestled nicely onto a 50 GB disc, there are no overt compression anomalies to be found. Considering the film's limited budget, Dead Snow is alive and well on Blu-ray.
Dead Snow Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Dead Snow drifts onto Blu-ray with a Norwegian-language DTS-HD Master Audio 5. 1 track that isn't the best sonic spookfest I've heard in a horror film, but certainly doesn't disappoint. The surround channels are effectively used throughout for moaning zombies circling the cabin, the snowmobile tearing across the soundstage, and plenty of splatterific effects. Most impressively, though, is how the film captures that creepy ambient hush of a snowfall, a kind of padded silence, like nature's white noise. The mix is at its best when it throws in some impressionistic flourishes, like an ultra-low LFE drone to signify the approach of evil in the woods. Dynamically, the track is solid and mostly well balanced, although the effects sometimes seem a little loud and the high-end can get somewhat brash at times, especially when the hardcore music kicks in. Speaking of, the film's soundtrack is completely schizophrenic, blasting out everything from "In the Hall of the Mountain King" to death metal to what I can only describe as Norwegian country western. The dialogue comes through cleanly, though I'd recommend staying away from the Dolby Digital 2.0 English dub that's also included on the disc. Do note that the subtitles—available in English, English SDH, and Spanish—appear in yellow lettering and are easily readable against the snowy white backgrounds.
Dead Snow Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Behind Dead Snow (SD, 18:39)
"Dead Snow is a feel good Nazi zombie horror thing," says director Tommy Wirkola—who looks a bit like a Norwegian Spike Jonze—at the start of this casual and entertaining behind-the- scenes documentary. Basically, what we have here is a ton of on-location footage of the cast and crew filming scenes and generally goofing off. There are quite a few funny moments, so the eighteen minutes fly by quickly. A nice inclusion.
Special Make-Up Effects of Dead Snow (SD, 6:30)
This featurette takes us inside the film's special effects studio, where life casts were made of the actors and hundreds of silicon zombie masks were prepared.
Madness in the North! (SD, 48:56)
Madness indeed. This documentary focuses on the often-troubled outdoor shoot, which was plagued by poor weather that caused labor disputes with the crew when the filming went into overtime. At nearly 50 minutes, it runs unnecessarily long, but it's an interesting portrait of the pressures of low-budget filmmaking.
Madness in the West! (SD, 17:50)
Here we follow director Tommy Wirkola and the cast from Norway to Amsterdam to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City to Park City as they make their way—with frequent delays and obstacles—to the Sundance Film Festival.
VFX (SD, 3:19)
This short segment shows some of the compositing work that was done to achieve the film's visual effects.
Burning the Cabin (SD, 1:01)
Footage from the cabin-burning scene that had to be cut because it was too dark.
The Sounds of Dead Snow (SD, 5:42)
Sound designer Kjetil Troan takes through the process of creating hundreds of unique zombie noises, many of which involved yelling through a cardboard tube.
Outtakes (SD, 2:03)
Original Theatrical Trailer (SD, 2:36)
Teaser Trailer (SD, 00:54)
Dead Snow Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
So now that the Nazi zombie phenomenon has—for the time being—run its course, what's next? Maoist werewolves? Feudalist ghosts? Sexy Stalinist witches? Bring it on, indie horror filmmakers. I'm up for anything. Dead Snow may cash in every cliché imaginable, but it's a lot of fun, especially if you're jonesing for a heaping serving of gore. Coolly recommended.
Dead Snow Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Dead Snow Blu-ray Announced for February - January 11, 2010
MPI Media Group has officially announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of 'Dead Snow', which is due to hit store shelves on February 23. 'Dead Snow' (Død snø) is a Norwegian zombie horror/comedy movie about a group of medical students on a ski vacation who are ...
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