Dead Snow (2009)
By: Paul Ryan on March 4, 2010  | 
Madman | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) |Norwegian DD 5.1 | 87 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen, Charlotte Frogner, Jeppe Laursen, Lasse Valdal
Screenplay: Stig Frode Henriksen, Tommy Wirkola
Country: Norway
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A bunch of Norwegian med student buddies take a trip to the snowy peaks of Oksfjord for a bit of R&R. Unbeknownst to them, their holiday destination was once a brutal Nazi stronghold. Well, until the villagers turned the tables on their occupiers and drove them into the mountains to die, that is. Except the locals are pretty sure that something evil and German still lurks in the woods, and when the students uncover a stash of Nazi gold in their cabin, it fully awakens the murderous storm troopers. Before long, the soldiers are slashing, shooting, biting and tearing their way through these hapless student bodies…

Not as clever or as original as it thinks it is (especially to anyone who's heard of such 70s-80s Nazi zombie flicks such as Shock Waves, Zombie Lake or Oasis of the Zombies), Dead Snow takes time to get going, but eventually works up a decent head of steam. The snowbound setting makes for a striking contrast with all the blood and gore, with great design of the zombies and some impressive special effects. There are some good, splattery set pieces to be had, and the cast hits the right note of absurdity throughout. Director and co-writer Tommy Wirkola handles the action with wit and pace, though some other comedic moments (like the gross-out sex scene in an outhouse) fall flat. Like a lot of recent horror comedies, there's some overt referencing of earlier genre classics, and in this instance it feels unnecessary and almost apologetic. Do we really need a film geek character to remind us that other (and better) zombie films have exist in this world? Of course not, but the film insists on giving us tubby nerd Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), who not only gets around with a Braindead t-shirt, but irritatingly compares the isolated setting to that of the first two Evil Dead films and has a monologue about horror movie conventions that is right out of Scream. Surely the genre is past all that self-aware post-modern stuff by now?

Anyway, when it sticks to its remit, Dead Snow delivers exactly what it promises: Nazi zombies on ice. In that respect, it gets the job done, but you just wish the film had been that bit more brazen and much less self-conscious.

Overall, the anamorphic transfer is as crisp as the Nordic snow, though with a couple of caveats. There's nothing noticeable in the way of film artifacts, though there's a bit of visual noise in the night time shots, and odd halos around objects in such shots. The daylight scenes look fantastic though, and have excellent detail and contrast.
Forget the bloodless 2.0 mix, the 5.1 is where it's at, and is full of bone crunching, flesh-tearing sound and fury. Very nicely done.
Extra Features
Madness in the North: This 48-minute behind-the-scenes featurette is a refreshingly honest look at the various problems that beset the production. Seen mainly from the perspective of production assistant Martin Hykkerud, we witness a series of mounting production setbacks that result from filming in a remote location in the height of winter. Blizzards and hail prevents shots from being completed and the shoot falls ever behind schedule as a result. Tensions flare between the crew and the producers. A major pyrotechnical shot ends up being completely unusable and legal threats from the owners of an old TV series prevents the film from being released under its announced title of Red Snow. It's not all misery though, as crew members have fun doubling up as zombies and debate the right levels of fake blood to spill on the snow.

Madness in the West: A series of short segments made for the film's website, this takes the viewer along with the director and cast as they debut the film at Sundance. The cast chafe at the differences in weather and food, but the film itself goes down a treat with the festival crowd. Worth it just to see the pair of zombies spooking Utah locals.

Visual FX: A brief montage of the various effects processes used in the film, and there's a surprisingly diverse number of them.

Makeup FX: A look at the prosthetics and gore effects, along with much test makeup footage.

Trailers: A pretty neat teaser and theatrical trailer, plus bonus trailers of Madman titles Let the Right One In, Lake Mungo, Sauna, Diary of the Dead and the Nintendo Wii game Cursed Mountain rounds things out.
The Verdict
It falls frustratingly short of the mark, but Dead Snow still manages to deliver in places. Madman's DVD comes with some interesting bonus material as well.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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