Zombie Nazis, buckets of blood, belly laughs, and hot babes; Dead Snow’s got it all. This hit Norwegian import took the horror scene by storm in 2009 with its Raimi-esque visual flair and Shaun of the Dead-style humor, offering a fresh and skewed perspective on well-worn themes, as well as introducing the genre to the burgeoning talent of director Tommy Wirkola. After a limited theatrical and V.O.D. run, Dead Snow (aka – Død snø) comes home on Blu-ray and DVD, courtesy of MPI.
A group of medical students travel up to the mountains for a getaway at their friend, Sara’s, family cabin. It’s a good 45 minute hike from the roadside, but, Sara’s boyfriend, Vegard (Lasse Valdal), has his snowmobile, and forges ahead with the rest of the groups’ luggage, and, when his friends finally finish their hike, they’re greeted by a toasty warm and secluded mountain oasis, replete with stunning vistas, great ski conditions, and…oh yeah…a horde of bloodthirsty Nazi Zombies.
A mysterious old traveler (played by respected Norwegian stage actor, Bjørn Sundquist) arrives at the cabin, and invites himself in for a cup of coffee. He asks who owns the cabin, and Vegard tells him that it belongs to Sara, who is skiing her way across the mountains to meet them. The old man slowly rolls a cigarette, helps himself to one of their beers, and tells them the sordid history of the area - one involving a group German soldiers, led by the vicious Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst), who, at the end of World War II, were chased into these very mountains by the citizens of a village they’d been terrorizing since their occupation. Herzog and his men had made off with all of the villages gold and jewels, but, given the inhospitable climate, they were thought to have frozen to death in the mountains and, since that time, locals believe them to be a cursed, evil place. The old man leaves, but not before issuing a dire warning to the students, who, of course, laugh it off. All except Vegard, that is. He decides to search for Sara, and tells the others that if he isn’t back by the next morning that they should follow the snowmobile tracks back down the mountain to go and get help. This leaves the skittish Martin (Vegar Hoel) charged with protecting his girlfriend, Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), and her friends Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten), and Chris (Jenny Skavlan), as neither horndog Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), or the hapless movie geek Erlend (Jeppe Laursen) are up to the task.
Halfway across the valley, Vegard makes a gruesome discovery, and follows a pair of bloody boot prints to an underground hideaway filled with a cache of World War II era weapons, uniforms, and a big ol’ Nazi flag! His friends back at the cabin, meanwhile, make a discovery of their own, in the guise of a stash of coins and jewelry hidden in the floorboards. As the excited students play with their newfound riches, their discovery awakens Herzog and his army, and soon the hills are alive with the sound of…um…the dead.
I absolutely adore Dead Snow. I had a chance to see it a few months back on V.O.D., but I mistakenly ordered the clumsily dubbed version, and, while I still loved the movie, my enthusiasm was dampened by the hideous voiceovers and wonky translation. I’ve watched the subtitled version on Blu-ray three times since its arrival, and, as I write this, I’m ready to go another round. This is just one of those inherently watchable (and re-watchable) horror flicks – the kind that aren’t bogged down by any unnecessary chatter or lengthy setups but, rather, go right for the jugular from the opening frame, and never let up. Wirkola directs his film with so much enthusiasm and such an obvious affection for the genre that you’d have to be a zombie, yourself, not to walk away from Dead Snow at least feeling marginally entertained. Fans of the undead and Raimiacs should love every second of it, as its as bloody and brutal as it is funny and inventive, while casual viewers drawn in by Shaun of the Dead comparisons will find a lot of laughs (as well as some surprisingly effective scares)!
The likeable and attractive young cast are uniformly excellent in their respective roles, especially Hoel and Valdal, who, as Martin and Vegard, endure Ash-like levels of mental and physical torment, and do a great job conveying it. If I have any complaints it’s that the dialogue’s a bit overly-precious at times, and some of the in-jokes and attempts at self-aware humor fall flat, but none of this detracts from what is otherwise a well-crafted, expertly-paced, and gloriously gory zombedy masterpiece.
MPI reanimates Dead Snow with a lovely 1.85:1 1080p transfer. With much of the action taking place against a canvas of snow, contrast levels are very good, with the vibrant colors of our heroes’ snowsuits and the healthy levels of gore popping off of the screen. Blacks are deep and true, while fine detail, especially in faces and textures, is readily apparent. I did notice an occasional softness in the image at times, as well as a fair amount of grain during the opening credits, but, otherwise, the image quality is quite pleasing.
The 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is a robust, deeply immersive affair, with crisp and natural sounding dialogue, gut-busting bass, and a virtual arsenal of ambient effects. The mix is remarkably consistent, with dialogue and the film’s eclectic soundtrack both coming across loud and clear, while the discrete effects populate the soundfield, distinct and isolated in the mix. For a modestly budgeted film, Dead Snow has fantastic sound design, and this audio track does it justice.
Extras are abundant, but, unfortunately, all presented in standard definition. We get a nice selection of featurettes (in Norwegian with English Subs), the beefiest of which are Behind Dead Snow - a fairly comprehensive look at the production of the film, with lots of raw footage and interview snippets, and Special make-up effects of Dead Snow, which features interviews with the FX crew and behind-the-scenes footage of some of the film’s goriest bits! Other featurettes include The Sounds of Dead Snow, Burning the Cabin, and Madness in the North! Madness in the West! A short reel of outtakes and trailers for this and other MPI/IFC releases round out the goodies.
Easily one of the most entertaining horror flicks of 2009 (it would have made my top ten list had I not watched the dubbed version, damnit!), Dead Snow stands shoulder to shoulder with many of the films it pays homage to, and instantly places itself amongst my personal favorite zombie films of all time. This is a fast-paced, funny, bloody, and hugely enjoyable film, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.