The sequel to the 2009 original jumps right back to where its predecessor left off: the worst day of Martin's (Vegar Hoel) continues. The Nazi Zombies that killed all his friends, made him accidentally kill his girlfriend, and forced to cut his right arm off have now decided they want more than making his life an unholy nightmare: they want to finish the job they were originally assigned by Adolf Hitler himself, avenging an embrassing loss in Norway.
Thankfully (or not) Martin's got his arm back, only it's actually the reattached arm of archnemesis: the Nazi Zombie Leader Herzog (Orjan Gamst). With the police unable to believe his outrageous story and due to Martin's new EVIL arm putting him in a bunch of bad situations, he's going to have to blindly rely on the trio known as the Zombie Squad (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas): a group of American genre savy nerds who've taken the events that transpire as evidence the Zombie Apocalypse that media envisioned has finally come true.
I am not kidding when I say I did not see this one coming and it took me off guard, though I have been eagerly anticipating the movie. So when I heard that Wizard World Chicago 2014 (more on that later this week) would have it's US Premiere, I leapt at the chance. The 2009 movie was good, but after seeing this trailer, I was truly amped for the sequel:
Holy crap, the trailer did match the hype and thankfully I was right! Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is a helluva fun movie!
Right out of the gate, the movie gives us what we want to see and never lets us out of its icy grip. This sequel exceeds and explodes past the original's 80s-type premise (a group of teens go into a cabin far out in the countryside and find something that is beyond their understanding - how many horror films of the 80s had this? About 85% of them?) into an insane slapstick-styled madhouse ride. But fear not - there are 80s film-making tropes still all over this film, such as Martin basically going full circle and becoming an Ash-type hero, though with an even WORSE string of bad luck (yet so full of great entertainment at his utter misery until the inevitable rematch).
Vegar Hoel is just a hoot as director/writer Tommy Wirkola puts the spotlight fully on him with the "dead weight" of his colleagues out of the way. Vegar takes the spotlight and owns it by giving an absolutelu delightful performance as the main protagonist you're rooting for.
Likewise, Starr, DeBoer, and Haas nail their nerdy stereotypes and are obviously having a ball acting out scenarios they've long wished they could be part of. Then there's the unsung heroes in this: Kristoff Joner as “the Puppy”, a zombie brought to life by Martin who then follows him throughout the film like a young pup wanting love and attention from his master. Then there's Glenn, played by Stig Frode Henriksen, who's the newbie thrown into this zombie Nazi carnage. Honestly, though Heriksen played another character in the original, his character here is so much better here and someone you even root for to survive near the end. All these new characters are welcome additions to the franchise.
As for the villains? They're freaking Nazi Zombies! You get what you're promised! Wirkola amps up their monstrous intensity with even more gory kills as they target small community after small community to either continue on their unholy mission or recruit more to their cause (which reminds me - as a character points out, this movie might have just invented it's own sub-genre).
No one is safe from their violent rampage of destruction and I mean NO ONE. You think a group of people might have a good chance in this or be ignored. NOPE, they gonna get it and get it badly. Amongst these troopers from hell is their leader Herzog, an awesomely menacing performance by Orjan leaving viewers wide-eyed at the acts he commits, waiting for Martin to get some comeuppance on this nasty undead bastard. Oh, and whenever they're dispatched it's even more entertaining.
Which leads me to the film's greatest positive if you haven't figured it out already. The first one had some dark humor (more towards the end), but this film is LOADED to the brim with it. If you're not a fan of that, you'll probably hate this film. But if you love this type of humor like I did? You'll adore the nasty corners this film goes to. The gags are set up and executed perfectly. Some would think that the Zombie Squad are too corny and tacky, but when you're dealing with a movie that has Nazi Zombies, you've thrown realism out the window already.
As I said before, the only way you're going to hate this film or say anything negative about it if you're talking about the way it deals with its characters. If you have a weak stomach or cannot handle horror films from the 80s, you're going to hate this film. Me? I was awed that the movie came off humorous despite the places it went.
Really, the only nitpick I have against this film is it teases zombies getting an arsenal of weapons at the musuem, but really they only use the tank and map from it. Come on, man! I wanted to see those grenades thrown and a tommy gun used!!! But that's just a minor nitpick and nothing more.
Regardless of the lack of weapons, just when you think this film cannot get any better or go any place worse, it speeds into it's crescendo: Martin using his magic hand to resurrect Soviet Zombies to fight the undead Nazi legions. Throw it on a field with some houses, add some wild card factors, and you have what quite possibly is one of the most insane, yet satisfying, climaxes in a zombie film in a long time. Heck, this is probably the most satisfying zombie film mixed with comedy since Shaun of the Dead.
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is the final film I've seen this summer and, quite honestly, it's probably my favorite. With a twisted sense of humor and filled with so much carnage candy, it'll make any fan of casual horror wide-eyed at the splatterfest they just bore witness to. This movie is quite possibly the sickest fun I've seen in a horror film and I loved every minute of it! You cannot go wrong at all with this film if you're looking for pure entertainment DONE RIGHT. It kind of surprised me how entertaining this was compared to, say, the last film I'd seen the other night, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Then again, maybe it's my string of bad luck in seeing three bad movies in a row for three weeks that made my opinion of this one even better than it should be. In any case, I'm kind of glad I'm ending August seeing this movie at least after the horrible binge I've been on after the month started so brilliantly with Guardians of the Galaxy. Still, I MUST HAVE SECOND VIEWING OF THIS MOVIE!!!! ZECHS WANTS MORE!!
4 out of 5