Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (Død Snø 2)
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: A bunch of Norwegians and Martin Starr
Release Date: February 12, 2014
Run Time: 100 minutes
Dead Snow 2 begins with a Friday the 13th-esque recap of the original movie and then picks up immediately where the last one ended, except now everyone magically speaks English. Martin escapes the clutches of the Nazi Zombie Colonel Herzog but gets into a violent car wreck. The doctors who resuscitate him surgically re-attach the arm found in the wreck with him - the arm of Colonel Herzog. Herzog is using his powers to create an army of zombies to carry out Hitler’s orders, so Martin must use the powers that come with his new arm to stop him by creating an army of Russian zombies. Seriously.
I loved the first movie, as you can read here. So when you tell me that not only are the same writer/director and main character coming back and it's going to scratch my itch for glorious continuity by picking up from the final frame of the original that’s all well and good. You’re telling me you're going to build up to a climax of Nazi zombies fighting Russian zombies in a giant ‘rasslin free for all? You already have my money, everything else is just gravy.
Martin and his zombie arm aren’t alone in their quest to create an undead army. He’s joined by the Zombie Squad - a group of mercenaries who have trained their entire lives for such an outbreak to occur. And by mercenaries, I mean it’s Freaks and Geeks and Party Down star Martin Starr (Daniel) and two hot women pretending to be nerds.
Martin Starr is the biggest upgrade over its predecessor. Dead Snow 2 goes the Evil Dead 2 route and embraces a much more comedic tone with a horror foundation. Having someone who not only has fantastic comedic delivery and timing but is also a recognizable “star” to the type of American audience who would stumble across this movie is a huge boost. He is the perfect counterbalance to all of the insane shit going on. In a world where the zombie corpse of Herzog will not rest until he completes Hitler’s order and roams the world slaughtering all who get in his way, Martin Starr in his super cool duster kills his first zombie and poses for a picture with it.
You’re probably asking yourself, “why haven’t you mentioned those two hot girls?” It is a horror movie after all, what do those very attractive women who put on big glasses and speak in movie quotes contribute to the movie? Well. I’m sure they're very nice people in real life. I’m sure they’re wonderful citizens who do a lot of good for their community, but the entire character trait of one of them is “Star Wars Reference.” It gets old after 90 minutes. It also gets old after 9 minutes. It’s like having 2 Kevin Smiths with even bigger tits.
Let’s talk about what’s really important here, and that is the greatest finale of any movie of all time. Let’s retrace our steps here. These are very minor spoilers, as the plot isn’t necessarily a tangled web of intrigue and clever twists. Herzog, the general from the first movie, loses his arm in the beginning of the movie and it ends up in the car with Martin as he crashes. Martin had chainsawed his arm off a la Ash in the previous film, so when the paramedics found him and a severed arm in the wreckage, they assumed this cold, white, dead hunk of flesh was his and reattached it. His new arm gives him superhuman strength as well as the ability to raise the dead and rule over them as their leader. This is all done in the first 15 minutes.
Herzog is attempting to carry out the final order Hitler gave him and wipe out some city in some country I couldn’t point out on a map with a gun to my head. Herzog murders people as he marches towards the city, resurrecting them afterwards to serve as soldiers in his undead army. When Martin gets news of this, he and the Freaks and Geeks guy find the mass grave of a Russian platoon that Herzog’s men captured and executed.
And then this happens
There’s an entire subplot full of a half dozen characters that I’m not even mentioning because just look at it. Look at their big, dumb Russian coats and their massive red beards. It wouldn’t matter if the rest of the movie was terrible, this climax is a visual that will stick with me forever. Long after I’ve forgotten the names and faces of loved ones I will remember a zombie doctor stuffing a bunch of hay in a Nazi’s chest where his organs used to be so he can get back on the battlefield to fight undead Commies.
What I love most about this movie, besides a zombie using someone’s intestines to siphon gas from a tour bus to fill up a World War 2 tank found at a museum, is the combination of how laugh out loud funny it is and how dark the comedy is. While I really enjoyed the first movie, it didn’t have a lot of jokes that stemmed from the dialogue. It was funny, but it relied a little too heavily on sight gags. There are actual, honest to God, written jokes. The sight gags are still there and they’re still funny, but the written material pushes this over the top, and Martin Starr accentuates the humor and helps take some of the pressure off of a bunch of Norwegian actors having to deliver jokes in English.
When I say the comedy is dark…well, I don’t want to spoil anything because nothing makes a joke funnier than knowing the punchline. But there’s some dead kids, dead disabled people, dead old people. Everyone dies in gruesome fashion, not just a handful of teenagers. The movie ends on a final joke instead of a traditional final scare, and I laughed harder at it than I’ve laughed at most comedies I’ve seen in 2014.
I loved this movie even more than the first. You get the same director with a bit more experience under his belt (even if that experience is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) and a bigger budget to play with. It’s more polished and finely tuned than the original. The Evil Dead comparison, overused to the point of cliche, rings true here. Not only does it lean more towards comedy than horror, but it shows the talents of a director who’s honed his craft between films and has more money to play with. The movie is filled from beginning to end with some fantastic gore effects and it’s very impressive how funny it is for a movie that's trying to reach a broader audience crossover from another country.
The two female members of the Zombie Squad grate on my nerves, and there’s an entire subplot and group of characters whose inclusion in the movie amounts to one gag in the climax, but those negatives aren’t nearly enough to outweigh how much fun I had watching it. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters to me. Did I have fun watching the movie? I watched it twice in a couple of days and laughed just as hard the second time. The day I stop smiling at an armless zombie trying to Sieg Heil and look dejected and saunter away is the day I stop watching movies.
And you know what, shout out to them filming two separate versions. They filmed a Norwegian version, and then re-filmed an English version with the same foreign actors and dialogue. Do you know how hard it is to find a horror movie that has actors who have lived in America all their lives and can act?