Tommy Wirkola’s surprisingly enjoyable 2009 comedy horror Dead Snow pit a group of snowbound adults against a horde of ghoulishly brutal Nazi zombies led by the formidable Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst). Five years later, Wirkola has unleashed a sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, into the world, and it is a better movie in every conceivable way. I never thought I would see a scene with intestines that rivaled that one part in Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, but that scene absolutely exists in this film’s 100-minute runtime.
After a brief montage catches latecomers up with this cartoonishly violent universe, Dead Snow 2 kicks its story into gear just as the first film ended, with one-armed survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) trying to escape and once again coming face to lipless face with Herzog. One quick sequence later, Martin gets into a massive car accident, with Herzog’s detached right arm inside the vehicle. As any good doctors would do, the ones responsible for nursing Martin back to health surgically reattach the arm they found to his body. This gives him the power of Herzog, though it comes with the price of randomly giving in to whatever impulsive movements that arm feels are necessary. A lot of it involves beating other people up and murdering them. I did say this movie was violent, right?
Martin’s arm is about 33% of the plot. Another third involves the motivations for why Herzog and his crew are building a bigger zombie army. The final third sees Martin being contacted by the Zombie Squad, a trio of bumbling Americans who are certain that their dedication to all things zombie-related will actually help them survive within a swarm of the undead. There’s leader-type Daniel (Martin Starr), and the sadly underdeveloped Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Blake (Ingrid Haas). Monica likes quoting Star Wars for some reason, and Blake hates it. It’s by far the most unintentionally cringe-worthy part of the movie.
So it’s a good thing that damned near everything else in Dead Snow 2 is an embarrassment of disemboweled riches. If you’re one who thinks of horror as a precious genre where “less is more” and subtlety is king, you’ll likely run screaming through ditches to get away from this flick. Where some films would utilize heady conversations or contemplative silence, Dead Snow 2 fills the space with heads being stomped quite literally into the ground, and vehicles running over characters’ faces. It’s a glorious exercise in excess, and several early set pieces are mere appetizers for a climax that includes a Nazis vs. Russian POWs war that constantly fills the frame with amazingly chaotic stunt work. This might be where some people start complaining about it being too much, and those people clearly don’t understand Wirkola’s escalation-focused headspace.
I worried that bringing Americans into the plot would cheapen the movie somehow, but it’s hardly an issue one way or the other. I’m a big fan of Martin Starr, who is better known for comedic work in Freaks and Geeks and Party Down, so I couldn’t get enough of him and Martin obliterating enemies together. Haas and DeBoer, both of whom are part of the CollegeHumor crowd, spend a chunk of the movie with museum worker Glenn (Stig Frode Henriksen), whose sexuality issues make up the second most mishandled aspect of the movie. I know I shouldn’t expect much subtlety from a movie where an exploded baby flies at the camera, but hoping for it is something different.
Wirkola’s work here is much more assured and extravagantly displayed than in the first film, which took on more of a slasher movie approach. The storytelling, which employs an offbeat sense of humor, is hardly more than a framework for Dead Snow 2‘s excellent special effects, but having that in mind goes a long way in getting past the moments that just don’t click, because you know some decapitation or explosion will take your mind off of it in the next two minutes. Even just the randomly disgusting and oddly adorable behavior of the Sidekick Zombie (Kristoffer Joner) is enough to balance the less-glaring faults.
Dead Snow 2 admittedly gets into supernatural elements that probably render it outside the science fiction genre altogether, but there is definite crossover viewer appeal. And honestly, I’d find a way to promote this film even if I worked for a rom-com-centered website. It’s a movie to watch with gore-minded friends and then spend 15 minutes post-credits talking about and acting out the many hilariously gruesome deaths (or re-deaths, I guess) the pic has to offer. And then you lay down in bed and have nightmares about someone waking up everyone in your hometown cemetery. It’s the perfect horror movie, despite not necessarily being a perfect movie in general.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is currently available on iTunes and other VOD outlets.