BluRay/DVD Reviews

DEAD SNOW: RED VS DEAD (Well Go USA)

By • Nov 30th, 2014 •

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Perhaps this’ll be a third-time-lucky franchise. The first was a predominantly routine young-people-in-a-cabin-getting-decimated plot, with a fun third act when the Nazi Rip Van Zombies attack. This sequel, in the tradition of sequels and threequels that have divined what was lacking in the original and improve upon it (think Whale’s BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN in particular, for its abandonment of pure horror for black comedy, but also THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY, possibly GODFATHER 2, definitely EVIL DEAD 2, etc.)

Here, first of all, it was the budget – four times the original’s at the very least, allowing for the abandonment of a single set, and the addition of more zombies, a Nazi tank, creative make-up effects and excessive quantities of them reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s DEAD ALIVE, and even CGI seasoning, much of it funny, which is the best way to swallow CGI.

Then there’s the script. The original wanted it both ways, straight and comedic. This one takes it in only one direction, as a comedic/gore romp. We like the protagonist, who’s back for more, and we like the Nazi leader – Herzog – who manages to communicate a substantial number of emotions despite the heavily made-up face (brings to mind the range Christopher Lee summoned up as the Mummy in 1959), we like the local gay guy (Stig Frode Henriksen, back from the original, but in a different role) who joins in the mayhem. What we don’t like is the female member of the gung-ho U.S. Zombie Squad (Jocelyn DeBoer) who keeps delivering platitudes but doesn’t find the right tone to make them funny, and so stops the momentum a number of times. And we actively dislike the local police chief (Hallvard Holmen) who is clueless and inept, but fails to get the laughs he’s going for and brings the revelry to a halt almost every time he’s given screen time.

There were two versions of the film, this being the English language one, and I wonder if these two characters came off better in the Norwegian version? One version is generally better than the other. And while you’d think the native language version would naturally be the better choice, I liked the English version of Herzog’s NOSFERATU (1979) more than the German version. As luck would have it, the international version of DEAD SNOW 2 is on the disc as a supplemental, so I checked it out to see if Ms. DeBoer’s performance would get better. However, as the Zombie Squad is composed of Americans, she speaks English in both versions. Ah, well.

Vegar Hoel returns as both one of the screenwriters, and as the lone survivor of the first film (after 5 years – the original was released in 2009), but the time frame picks up immediately after the original ended, and he gets no more than a few minutes rest in the hospital before being plunged back into battle with the undead Nazi hordes. There are some marvelous plot twists, which give the narrative lots of energy whenever he’s on screen. He may be exhausted from his ordeal, he may be mourning the death of his girlfriend, and he’s still covered in blood, but he’s been elected to stop the coming holocaust merely because no one believes him. Hoel has been busy these last five years, adding many performances to his resume. He even came to the US to play the Gamekeeper in DEAD SNOW director Tommy Wirkola’s film HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (2013 – which wasn’t as well liked as either of the SNOW films, but nonetheless there’s a sequel in the works).

There is a 13-minute short included with the Xtras called ARMEN, performed as pantomime, about a man who loses half his arm, grows it back, and the arm dictates his actions. Cute. And there’s a good, extremely brief, tour of the CGI effects. Plus, there’s a DEAD SNOW comic book, which Hoel and Wirkola took part in, though they did not do the illustrations.

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