Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Dead Snow" - Norwegian horror

I went to the theater (for a change) to see "Dead Snow," a much-anticipated horror/comedy. "Død snø," (cool Norwegian title, huh?) garnered great buzz last summer with a teaser trailer. It promised blood, a strong sense of humor... and zombie Nazis running wild on a mountain. See it below.

A strange synchronicity: last week, I began pining for my HK film days. The week before, a college pal liked my blurb on "DS." And it's only playing at the Cinema Village - the old home of those 90's film festivals. What followed was nostalgic and fun for us both. Horror was meant to be seen with friends. "Dead Snow" is refreshingly aware of what it is - a B horror flick - and runs with that. It reverently follows the path of 1980's horror. 7 youths meet at a friend's cabin for a snowy holiday. Fun and booze take a nasty turn: the mountain has a dark presence. Something about a lost Nazi army. You can see where this is going. The "impression" review: fair; negligible plot; flaws seem small; it's unexceptional. Now, in sentences: "DS" is decent. It has little flourishes that express intelligence and creativity. The gore can show nerve, but isn't excessive. The dialogue is balanced - self-aware, yet not annoying or inappropriate. The acting is fine. Best of all, it sometimes created suspense and more than one nice scare. The scenery is a major asset, as Norway's beauty is jaw-dropping. It's not that good, though. The filmmakers' intelligence is used to make the movie more enjoyable, not smarter. Also, genre pics usually exploit whatever makes them different. "DS" is unique because it has Nazi zombies (which is scarier), and that's under-used. While I'm glad there's no lengthy "Nazi stuff," it's only used for a useless backstory and the costumes (oh, why did evil fascists make cool uniforms!). The result: the story and internal logic feel flimsy and unimportant. For the first time in ages, I chose to not care (I usually don't choose). But the film isn't trying to break any records - look at that second poster! It's just aiming to be a fun 80's-esque horror offering that looks and sounds good. It wears its inspiration on its sleeve: "Brain Dead" shows up on a t-shirt (aka "Dead Alive" in the US); a sequence from "Evil Dead 2" is borrowed; "The Descent" also inspires a moment. "Dead Snow" doesn't play in those leagues, but it meets its modest goals. Little notes: (a) Great "Temple of Doom" quote ("Fortune and glory, kid..."). (b) The attacks (and treasure) are random - why are there any living locals? (c) I laughed every time I saw the town's name: Øksfjord. I wanted a British professor to pop up. (d) Weirdest love scene ever! A woman goes at it with a man who's sitting on the toilet?
before maybe, but never after (or during)

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