NPR logo A Scandinavian Splatterfest, Relishing Its Cliches


A Scandinavian Splatterfest, Relishing Its Cliches

Col. Herzog (Orjan Gamst, left) and his undead troop. Sveinung Svendsen/Euforia Film hide caption

toggle caption Sveinung Svendsen/Euforia Film

Col. Herzog (Orjan Gamst, left) and his undead troop.

Sveinung Svendsen/Euforia Film

Dead Snow

  • Director: Tommy Wirkola
  • Genre: Foreign, Horror
  • Running Time: 90 minutes

Unrated: Nazi zombies, pervasive strong horror violence and gore, language and sexuality

With: Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner, Orjan Gamst, Stig Frode Henriksen

Watch Clips

'What Will You Do?'

'A Mountain Home Invasion'

'They Taught Us Amputation'

'Secret Cave'

Note: Clips contain adult language, graphic violence.

Vegar Hoel as Martin, one of several generic characters threatened with a snack-food fate in Dead Snow. Liv Ask/Euforia Film hide caption

toggle caption Liv Ask/Euforia Film

Vegar Hoel as Martin, one of several generic characters threatened with a snack-food fate in Dead Snow.

Liv Ask/Euforia Film

It may be "Scandinavia's first Nazi zombie horror slasher feel-good film" — and sure, there's a certain novelty to the fact that everyone here is speaking Norwegian — but Dead Snow speaks the lingua franca of its genre.

So, because backwoods America isn't the only place where some dimwit realizes that the house slut has gone missing and decides that the best course of action would be to "split up and go look for her," the nubile medical students in Dead Snow meet a fate worthy of every snarky, overprivileged youngster who ever populated a shameless splatterfest: They get their entrails gobbled by the Nazi undead.

Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola, Dead Snow relishes its own cliches like a zombie snacking on an especially juicy pancreas. A certain amount of self-awareness is to be expected of a movie as blatantly silly as this, but Wirkola winks at his audience so often you're less likely to cover your eyes than roll them.

En route to the remote mountaintop cabin where they plan to ski, fool around, drink massive quantities of beer and rock out to lousy Norwegian heavy metal, our clueless heroes indulge in a bit of meta-movie chitchat, name-dropping both the Friday the 13th franchise and Sam Raimi's immortal Evil Dead flicks.

Wirkola joins the narrative template of the former (isolated kids getting randomly offed) to the tone of the latter (slapstick gore frenzy). Yet Dead Snow ends up as less than the sum of its parts; it's neither pure exploitation nor giddy gross-out.

To be sure, it's plenty gross — even if the various decapitations, disembowelments, impalings, ripped-up limbs, hatcheted faces, masticated body parts and large intestines inadvertently snagged on tree branches are familiar enough from other movies.

The generic characters, none memorable enough to name or describe, more or less fulfill their duty as meat puppets. Not one of them elicits much sympathy or interest, though I was rather hoping that the girl with dreadlocks would go down first, because white people with dreadlocks are just so wrong.

From the late-'60s social tensions exploded in Night of the Living Dead to the nation-building of the damned evoked by 28 Weeks Later, all the great zombie films have nourished themselves on political subtext. The zombie is an Other that is also Us; satire and social commentary are built right into the premise.

Dead Snow has no such ambitions, conscious or otherwise. That it features Nazi zombies doesn't speak to some Scandinavian reckoning with a historical horror (or a present-day anxiety) so much as to the fact that Nazis are, like, totally evil.

Now, there's nothing wrong with a Norwegian Nazi zombie flick with no ambitions to subvert hegemonic capitalism, or whatever. But why not go all the way? It may seem strange to wish that a movie featuring copious organ-spillage might go further than it does, but ultimately Dead Snow feels more like an excuse for an f/x team to muck around with fake guts than like a vision — no matter how (severed) tongue in (rotting) cheek — of horror.

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