Starring: Vegar Hoel, Ørjan Gamst, Martin Starr
Genre: Horror/ Comedy
After surviving an attack by Nazi zombies in the Norwegian mountains in which all his friends died and he had to saw off his own arm in the process, Martin (Hoel) thought that was the last he had seen of them and he was finally free. Unfortunately not only is Martin arrested for apparently murdering his friends, he has acquired a new arm courtesy a fight with the zombie’s leader; Herzog (Gamst). However to complete a mission that they all originally died doing, the zombies are coming down from the mountain and expanding their un-dead army and the only way Martin can stop them is with the help of his new American friends known as ‘Zombie Squad’ and using the powers in his new arm to raise from the dead a group of former Soviet POWS who were murdered by the then Nazi officers and have a grudge to resolve.
Comedy (despite what the likes of Seth Rogen like to think), is extremely difficult to get right; well horror comedy is in my view even more difficult in some ways as the attempts at comedy often misfire and the laughs are more AT than WITH. Well, Tommy Wirkola returns form directing the horrendously bad Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (even though, bafflingly a sequel has been confirmed with Wirkola at the helm) to return to do a sequel to his hilarious original and it is a welcome return as he has put together an even better sequel that is everything a horror-comedy should be; genuinely inventive visual gags, a witty script, genuinely likeable characters, decent acting and of course an abundance of blood and gore. These are balanced together very skilfully by Wirkola, co-writer and lead actor Starr and co-writer Stig Frode Henriksen who also plays an extremely likeable supporting character.
There is no denying that Dead Snow 2 is more ambitious than its predecessor; Dead Snow had the usual groups-of-friends-in-a-remote-location-and-get-picked-off-one-by-one narrative but with the zombies making their way from the mountain (in fact despite the title there is actually very little snow in this film) it means the film can expand on its characters as well as narrative coincidences and developments (many intentionally ludicrous).
The expansive narrative world (and not to mention the rather large budget of 35million krone) means we now have various random locals facing gory and hilarious deaths, a group of gung-ho Americans (a move that is both cynical and necessary to give the film more universal appeal as now half the dialogue is English) and an incompetent local police force all with hilarious results.
So many horror comedies go for lazy and obvious gags and rely heavily on swearing to raise laughs, but the script in Dead Snow 2 is genuinely funny and inventive, as well as also admittedly ignoring laws of physics, biology and indeed reality, but yet it surreptitiously gets very much away with it. In fact the zombies in Dead Snow 2 are even unique in that they cannot infect the living by biting them, they have to kill them first and then Herzog (or indeed Martin) can bring them back to life with their hand. It is a ludicrous move, but of course necessary for the equally ludicrous plot and the outrageous final epic battle between Nazi and Soviet zombies.
With the rather generous budget it would have been so easy for Wirkola and co. to rest on their laurels and go for big and spectacular, but lazy; Well thankfully they do not and from start to finish, the gags keep on coming for the entire 100 minutes and the film never loses momentum with an outrageous finale and a genuinely disgustingly hilarious final sequence. Crucially, though the hilarious deaths belong to random locals, the narrative’s main characters have depth and are well-written and likeable. No matter how funny or outrageous the film is, for me it is always infinitely enhanced by having a memorable and likeable protagonist that is worth genuinely routing for, and as Martin Vegar Hoel is exactly that. Likewise the American ‘Zombie Squad’, local inept police officers and Stige Frode Henriksen’s local Goth museum assistant are admittedly clichéd, but the writing and acting make sure these characters rise above any lazy clichés that would undermine the narrative’s involvement. There is an even a zombie character that not only provides many superb visual gags, but is also the most deeply sympathetic character of the entire film
No matter how random and made-up-as-they-go-along films feel like when watching, the best ones are still made with rigorous discipline and creative craft, and though Dead Snow 2 is of course outrageously bonkers and perhaps does take a fair few liberties (the Nazi zombies steal a WW2 tank from a museum that not only works perfectly, but there is an unlimited supply of shells for it, hmmmm……), it is because of the discipline and genuine craft of how it was made (particularly the verbal and visual gags) that it does work so well.
It is quite obvious that Tommy Wirkola has The Evil Dead Trilogy (particularly Army of Darkness) and the earlier films of Peter Jackson in the back of his mind, but this is not just lazy plagiarism or parody, (Dead Snow itself opened the floodgates for more, and inferior, Nazi zombie films to be made) and in a world where there are so money ‘horror-comedies’ that are just lazy and the supposed ‘comedy’ just falls flat on its face, Wirkola has proved that the horror-comedy genre is very much alive. Well, un-dead.
Bigger and better than its predecessor in every way; despite the fact there is actually very little snow in the film, Dead Snow 2: Red Vs Dead is an outrageous, suitably gory and genuinely hilarious horror-comedy.