CAUTION: Spoilers of the original film’s ending are present in this review.
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is the sequel to the 2009 splatter horror film Dead Snow by Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola. The beginning of this sequel recaps the events of its predecessor: a group of friends travel to a cabin in the Norwegian mountains and are, one-by-one, mutilated by Nazi zombies hell-bent on retrieving their lost Nazi gold, which the group had obtained. Martin (Vegar Hoel), the last surviving member of the group, ends the first film attempting to escape the zombies after losing an arm and returning the box of gold to them. A single Nazi coin falls to the floor of his car as he reaches for his keys, and the Nazi zombie leader, Herzog (Orjan Gamst), breaks into the car to kill him.
Red vs. Dead picks up at this scene. Martin drives away with Herzog clinging to the car door. Herzog is eventually ripped off of the car by an oncoming semi, severing his arm, which falls promptly onto the passenger seat. Martin, starting to fade out of consciousness from lack of blood, crashes his car and blacks out.
Martin wakes up in a hospital, where the police are waiting to question him about the deaths of his friends. He fruitlessly attempts to explain what happened in the mountains, and the officer leading the interrogation assures him that he will be going to prison. The doctor then informs Martin that the cold had made it possible for surgeons to recover his arm and surgically reattach it. However, the arm they found was Herzog’s, and it immediately gets to work trying to kill everyone in the room.
Meanwhile, a ghoulish-looking Nazi doctor has attached a new arm to Herzog’s body (for he cannot properly salute the fuhrer without one). Martin later escapes police custody and gets in contact with the “Zombie Squad,” a trio of Americans (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, and Ingrid Haas) that label themselves zombie experts but have never encountered a zombie before.
The Zombie Squad are your stereotypical nerds, armed with glasses, Star Wars references, and “It’s A Trap” T-shirts (a shirt I would admittedly wear if I owned, to be fair). At times, this clichéd characterization is groan-worthy. At other times, it works to the film’s advantage, particularly due to the comedic prowess of Starr. Speaking of the comedy of this film as a whole, it is similarly hit or miss. There are, as in the original film, scenes of bloody mayhem that are sadistically delightful to watch. And there are some visual gags that land well, as in the novel uses of human intestines. However, there are also painfully done-to-death gags that could have been avoided, such as the hiding-in-plain-sight gag.
The first Dead Snow film got flack for its lack of a plot. As such, Red vs. Dead seems to be trying to compensate for that by providing about 40 minutes of set up before our protagonist is reconnected with his undead foes. This makes for a first act that crawls when it would better serve the audience by sprinting. The slow build does provide for some added dimensions to the mythology of this particular brand of zombies (“curse zombies,” apparently). There is a unique element to the reanimation of the dead that is fairly interesting. But overall the exposition is unnecessarily long for a movie about Nazi zombies.
Red vs. Dead is a half-way decent horror comedy. A small majority of the comedic moments definitely work, but a lot of them fall flat. There is a self-aware element to the Zombie Squad characters that is effective. The makeup and visual effects are top-notch for a B-movie pastiche.
However, this sequel leaves something to be desired. The movie is very anti-climactic. Everything is leading toward one final battle. To be fair, the battle is choreographed well, but it doesn’t quite make up for the slow first act.
I remember enjoying the over-the-top-ness of the first film. It was a pure splatter throwback. This sequel is much different. It tries to create its own place in the horror movie universe. In some ways, this is done effectively, but there are narrative issues that drive the film into the ground. If these problems were accompanied by pure hilarity, then I could overlook most of the pitfalls that this film suffers from. As I said, it isn’t all bad comedy. I would say about 60% of the jokes landed for me. There was one zombie character in particular that I enjoyed quite a bit until he was abused with body gags. Martin Starr has some well-timed jokes. But the Star Wars jokes written for Jocelyn DeBoer get old fast. Unfortunately, this film just isn’t funny enough.
This film wasn’t superior to the sequel. If you want to see either installments, you can find them both on Amazon:
Also, Amazon has plenty of “It’s A Trap” t-shirts available. You’re welcome:
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead? If so, what did you think? Does it live up to/do better than the sequel? Or does it fall flat? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)