Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: A bunch of Norwegians
Release Date: January 9, 2009
Run Time: 91 minutes
Eight Norwegian med-students take their Easter Break in a cabin in the
woods mountains of Finnmark, a place that I absolutely thought was made up because I am an uncultured idiot. There's some drinking, some dudebroing out, some risqué games, two people having sex in an outhouse. You know, vacation, just like Chevy Chase would have wanted it. One night a grizzled old man knocks on their door and calmly explains that a Nazi regimen "inhabited" a nearby village during World War II and there is evil lingering. He leaves, they find a box of Nazi gold, they get attacked by Nazi zombies for an hour. You know, pretty much standard fare.
Before I get into the movie I want to tell you my general opinion on both zombies and horror comedies so you know what angle I'm coming at this movie from. I don't enjoy 99% of zombie movies. Not that I have a problem with the concept of them, it's just that zombies and found footage have overtaken slashers as the subgenre of low budget bullshit that floods Netflix as well as my glorious Wal-Mart DVD packs. 20 movies for 5 dollars, who could pass up that bargain? They're so easy to make and there's so many terrible versions of them out there and I am sick and tired of seeing them. Even Romero hasn't made a good zombie movie in about a decade. And as for horror comedy? As in, a horror movie that's also funny on purpose? I can count the good ones on one hand. Just close your eyes for a second and think of all the horror movies that thought their witty banter and winks to the audience were going to make them the next Scream.
With all of that being said, I absolutely love this movie.
The characters are about what you would expect. They're decently likable and it's not like I was rooting for them to die in horrific fashion The problem is I'm a big dumb American so all of their names sounded like Tolkien characters and I didn't know who was who except for the fat guy. Out of all the hot young teens hitting the slopes there was a fat guy wearing a Braindead (Dead Alive) t-shirt who recited movie trivia. I really appreciated the director going out of his way to include me in the film and it really helped immerse me into the world.
We're not here for those characters, we're here for the zombies wearing fatigues and swastika armbands. We see flashes of them in the first 30 minutes, even getting some fantastic Zombie Vision POV shots, but we don't get a real good look at them until after the old man tells the kids about the evil lingering in the mountains or whatever nonsense he was babbling about. Norwegians love them some slashers, and they know the formula well. So we watch the characters bond and hang out a bit, but we know the movie isn’t going to kick in until your standard Friday the 13th Crazy Ralph character showing up uninvited and yelling about a death curse. So of course a man native to this part who knows all about evil lurking in them there hills mysteriously appears and delivers a never ending exposition dump. Apropos of nothing he shows up to the movie and tells them "Look, your coffee sucks, Nazis died here, deuces" and then gets murdered by a zombie and is never spoken of again.
All of this happens within the first half hour and at that point in the movie I'm kind of at a thumbs in the middle. It's not bad, and it would make a nice time killer if it was English. The problem is, it's just "not bad" and it's in another language. It's not a particular gripping movie at this point and probably not worth my full attention. It feels like it's setting up the slasher formula. There was a pre-credits kill, character introductions where we meet the disposable meat for the movie, a couple shots of the danger, a harbinger of death, some cheap jump scares. Nothing to live up to the hype I'd heard about this movie. Then shit changed.
We know what movie we're watching. We know at some point this cabin is going to get attacked, but we're just biding our time until then. Then the gang finds a box hidden in the crawlspace full of Nazi gold. and then zombies attack and the movie does not slow down for the last hour. It keeps escalating and escalating and everything gets crazier and crazier and everyone is soaked in blood with the backdrop of the white snowy mountains. There's Evil Dead callbacks, there's intestines being used as a rope to keep from falling off a cliff a la Machete, there's a machine gun mounted on a snow mobile, there's some Norwegian death metal, there's even this:
I don’t think there is a single frame of the last hour of the movie that doesn’t have either blood, fake intestines, rubber zombies, or some combination in it.
I like how the zombies aren't traditional zombies. They're not slow, lumbering idiots and they all know how to use their weapons. They all follow rank and take orders from their commander. You know just enough about them to make them a threat, but you don't get bogged down in details like you would in other horror movies. They were terrible people while they were alive, they were chased into snowy mountains, now they're zombies. How did this happen? How did they become zombies? It doesn't matter because they're running you down like a linebacker. They're more like Leprechaun than anything else. You took Me Gold and now you have to die a horrible death. It’s not often you see a movie where the MacGuffin is literally Jew Gold.
The location is beautiful. Not just because I live in Texas and I've never seen more than a foot of snow in person in my entire life, but that certainly doesn't hurt. It's basically Norway's version of a cabin in the woods, but the location in the mountains adds to the tension. Not only is there the standard "oh man we're stranded out here no one can help us and we don't have a cell phone signal," but you can't wait them out. You'll freeze to death or get lost up there. Nobody is going to find you. Once shit hits the fan in the third act it becomes a gorgeous backdrop for the over the top violence. The survivors are covered in blood from head to toe and everything around them is a pure, blissful white.
|All the colors are washed out. You could say the entire Norwegian countryside is whitewashed.|
The biggest problem I've had with writing this review is I can't get across the comedy aspect without ruining it, and the humor is one of the movie’s biggest assets. Sure I can tell you how cool it is that someone literally gets their skull ripped apart, but ruining a perfectly timed joke takes so much enjoyment out of the experience. I'm a man who hasn't read anything longer than an Animorphs book in about 15 years and I thought the timing of the jokes - even through subtitles - was perfect and I laughed out loud while watching alone (a rare feat) at least a half dozen times. If there's one thing that will always put a smile on my face, it's a woman beating a bird to death. If there's two things, it's a woman beating a bird to death and callbacks. I love when a movie takes the time to set up a joke in act one and pay it off in act three instead of relying solely on "look how CRAZY this is." If you're going into this thinking the entire joke of the movie is "They're zombies...but they're Nazis! Cuh-RAZY" then rest easy knowing that's not the case. I would not waste your time telling you to watch it. One of my notes for my first viewing simply reads "I have a big stupid smile on my face right now" with absolutely no context but I know exactly what it is without thinking for a second.
I can't recommend this enough. It's full of well-timed comedy that embraces numerous genre cliches and transcends the language barrier. It makes zombie movies look so easy that it makes you wonder why us Americans can't stop fucking it up so much. It's insanely bloody, funny, entertaining, and just fun. Not everything needs to be a Romero movie that has a message about whatever social issue that old man is hung up on this decade. Sometimes a movie just wants to be fun. It starts slow but it keeps escalating and never lets up. The over the top violence and comedy are on par with one another and it never feels like one is overshadowing the other. If only I didn't have to read so many words with my big dumb American pig eyes. I thought this was a movie not a trick to get me to do homework.