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DVD Review: Dead Snow
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Dead SnowDead Snow
DVD | Blu-ray
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Starring Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel, Bjorn Sundquist
MPI Home Video
Release date: February 23, 2010

A group of medical students take an Easter vacation to a cabin in the woods near the small Norwegian village of Oksfjord. Because of the heavy snow their only way to get there — and back — is a single snowmobile or a 45-minute walk. And no, there is no phone reception up here. Happily, they play in the snow; having snowball fights and sledging down the hills. In the cabin they drink beer, play twister, and enjoy themselves. But they are not alone. During World War 2, German soldiers terrorised Oksfjord subjecting its people to three years of barbarity as they looted any valuables they could find. Having finally had enough, the villagers rallied together and hounded the soldiers out of their homes and into the mountains. Something evil is stalking the students — zombie Nazis.

Let me get this out of the way early: I loved this movie. I thought it was a great genre piece made by an obvious horror movie nut and brought a fresh angle to an already gorged genre. Like the child vampires in Let The Right One In it seems the snow in Scandinavia has forced a genuinely fresh take on another of my favourite horror creations and Dead Snow, directed and co-written by Tommy Wirkola, steps into those bloody-footprints with gory glee.

The main characters offer a different angle on the staple horror movie monster diet. These are not spoiled rich kids or stoner teenagers hoping to hump, drink, and toke their way through the holidays, no, these are medical students — reasoned, intelligent adults and as such their methods of dealing with the threat is (mostly) befitting of such people. Their medical training comes in very handing for one character in one of many nods to the Evil Dead films.

There are bucketfuls of blood and gore. The body count is high thanks to some very cool kills and set pieces — from both humans and the undead — and our heroes have to do some pretty horrific things to try and stay alive; one moment in particular was very stark and I found it difficult to watch. The zombies are particularly frightening and were the scariest joy of the movie for me. They are fast, agile, strong, and by using weapons show their intelligence; they roar and growl and even have levels of hierarchy; the zombies are quick and crafty, lying in wait for their victims; no shouts of “brains!” or walking slowly with their arms reaching out — they will sprint after you and rip your intestines out! Wirkola manages to create tension and terror without the need for cheap hiding-behind-the-trees shots. Like the scene on the moors in An American Werewolf in London they’re totally exposed — just a bleak, open wilderness where the victims are waiting for an unseen terror.

However, the long periods of pant-shitting terror are interspersed with trouser-wettingly funny moments. Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen, who was also Wirkola’s co-writer) is hilarious throughout and his combined efforts with Martin (Vegar Hoel) to stave off a zombie attack from the safety of the log cabin made me cry with laughter.

Dead Snow was made and acted by a relatively unknown Norwegian team. Thanks to the iMDB I discovered the only actor with an impressive actor resume is Bjorn Sundquist who played The Wanderer, a middle aged man who calls at their cabin late at night to tell them the history of Oksfjord and the Zombies. His acting experience shows; when he is on-screen he is utterly captivating and the long shots of him merely lighting and smoking a cigarette are some of the most tense in the movie.

Tommy Wirkola is one of the most exciting new directors I have seen recently and his writing, along with Henriksen, is a breath of fresh air next to the smog of Hollywood. It will stand up as one of the best horror DVDs of this year.

Bonus Features

Ein! Zwei! Die! The Making Of Dead Snow: A behind-the-scenes documentary lead by the amiable and hilarious Martin Hykkerud, one of the Production Assistants in which the cast and crew have to deal with treacherous conditions that constantly disrupt the shoot. After watching the movie it’s amazing to find out that a team of only three people was responsible for all the incredible make-up effects in the movie. The

Cast and Crew at Sundance: After a much delayed flight the cast and crew finally get to Sundance 09 where the movie was very well received. This extra feature is proof that Stig Frode Henriksen is as funny in real life as he is in the movie.

Special Effects Featurette and Make-Up Featurette: Short documentaries on the special effects shots used in the film and how the make up was done to create the look of the zombies.

Trailers: A selection of TRAILERS rounds things up.

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