It almost feels blasphemous to even consider there being a more hilarious and creative zombie horror comedy than “Shaun of the Dead.” But with its gleefully bloody rampages led by a small army of Nazi undead, “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” might be exactly that– a zombie horror comedy more hilarious and creative than “Shaun of the Dead.”
The original followed a cabin-in-the-woods formula, with a group of seven students who discover buried treasure that resurrects an army of zombie Nazi soldiers. A mysterious hiker reveals that the Nazi soldiers had tortured and looted the people in the small mountain town during World War II. The villagers eventually formed an uprising and chased them into the snow, where they froze to death. The film ends with six students dead and the final survivor, Martin, being attacked.
“Dead Snow 2” picks up with Martin waking up in a hospital. The local authorities suspect that he is responsible for the death of his friends, and the local medics successfully reattach what they believed to be Martin’s arm. He soon discovers that it is actually the arm of Colonel Herzog, the leader of the Nazi army that attacked him.
Released five years after the original, “Dead Snow 2” is vastly more exciting and inventive. Much credit is due to the more focused narrative. Cabin-in-the-woods horror flicks can be a great deal of fun, but they rarely make for good cinema (there are exceptions). So breaking away from this formula and into a more destination-driven story opened up the doors for a tons of shockingly hilarious sub-plots. Rather than just survive, our heroes have a purpose this time– to stop Herzog’s army from carrying out Hitler’s orders of wiping out a Norwegian town.
Martin eventually teams up with what he believed to be a very skilled group of American zombie hunters, who turn out to be three very unskilled nerds– informed only by popular media, but determined to prove themselves. They call themselves the “Zombie Squad” and are comprised by the Daniel (played by Martin Starr) and the two believably geeky but conveniently gorgeous Monica and Blake.
The blood and gore are back full-throttle. The body count is town-size. And the killing sprees are fittingly gratuitous. There’s certainly an over-reliance on deaths involving intestines (removing them, strangling people with them, electrocuting people with them– that one’s new), but most of the violence is well-done. Director Tommy Wirkola does a great job of making the deaths shocking without becoming nauseating.
The tagline for the movie reads, “The sequel you did Nazi coming.” That should give you an idea for what kind of slapstick humor to expect.
With the help of gay WWII museum staffer, Glenn, the zombie-fighting trio, “Dead Snow 2” provide the film with plenty hilarity throughout. In fact, it’s the funniest horror movie I’ve ever seen. And that’s an especially impressive (if somewhat troublesome) feat once you consider that you’re laughing about militants in the largest act of ethnic oppression in human history. When people in wheelchairs, black people or the flamboyantly gay make appearances on screen, we know they will be key targets when the zombie Nazis start rolling through.
In one scene, Martin must refrain his attached Nazi arm from strangling a black pedestrian. Later, Nazi zombies chase down a woman in the wheelchair before stomping her to death. The over-the-top comedy in “Dead Snow 2” are so consistent and fast-paced that you don’t have the chance to ponder how offensive some of these scenes are in the moment. Whether or not that’s a positive thing is debatable. Although, most scenes are too funny to consider the political correctness of the film’s historical context.
In the film’s finale, Martin Starr’s character exclaims, “I’ve seen a thousand zombie movies and this isn’t in any of them!” The gore fest crescendos into an absolutely bonkers finale as our protagonist raises his own army of zombies from the dead to combat Herzog’s men.
The original “Dead Snow” was a fun homage to movies like “Evil Dead.” But it never felt like more than that. “Dead Snow 2” shows what happens when a clever idea is elevated to its full potential. No longer relying on the simple absurdity of Nazi zombies, “Dead Snow 2” is a rare classic that provides more blood and scares than most horror movies and more laughs than most comedies.
“Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” is available on DVD, blu ray and digital download here on Amazon; and the original here. And be sure to check out the other entries in the Horror Sequel Marathon right here on My Vinyl Muse!