Dead Snow,
directed by Tommy Wirktola
(IFC, 2009)

Tommy Wirktola's Dead Snow is the real horror deal on three fronts: it's got scares and gore galore, a new twist on a familiar story and enough comedy to make you laugh even while your fingers are stuffed in your mouth due to extensive nail-biting.

The premise starts on familiar ground and turns crazy from there: A group of medical students travels to a remote cabin on a mountainside to drink, listen to death metal music and get it on -- your basic rest and relaxation during Easter break. Just as they settle in for their first night of serious drinking and casual sex, along comes an old man knocking on their door to warn them that they couldn't have set up in a worse place.

It seems that during World War II, the Nazis had taken over the nearby town, it being an important outpost in the war against the Allies. Their treatment of the villagers was barbaric. As the war continued to go badly for the Nazis, their behavior escalated, brutalizing the citizens and stealing every bit of gold and silver they could get their hands on, until the townspeople rose up in revolt, killing most of them and causing the rest of them, including the commander, to disappear forever into the hills with their ill-gotten treasure. But gone is not forgotten, and they might not actually be dead after all....

The plot builds up wonderfully, right up to the accidental discovery of the treasure and the Nazi hideout, then turns into a gorefest of epic proportions. Dead Snow follows the rules of the genre to the letter, with all the influences worn on its sleeve, but it's still a mostly pretty sleek, well-thought-out and very competent story in terms of achieving high tension and cover-your-eyes splatter. There's danger lurking in the dark, chainsaws, axes, machine guns, snow machines, breathless chase scenes at breakneck pace through the woods and more intestinal action than I have ever seen in one place. It's cheesy and crafty at the same time, with huge plot holes in one place and neat ideas in the very next frame, but in spite of the unevenness it's still a decent lesson in how to take a classic premise a few notches above the norm. Along with Sauna and Let the Right One In, it's one of the best examples of how Europe, specifically the Scandinavian region, is putting out some of the best horror movies out there, as far above the grindhouse of American Hollywood cinema as a cabin in a remote mountain peak.

review by
Mary Harvey

2 March 2013

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