Saturday, February 14, 2015

Horror Film Review

Dead Snow 2 - Red vs Dead (2014):  Finally, after five long years, the sequel is here.  The original is a low-budget, Norwegian masterpiece of zombie mayhem that joined the ranks of heavy-hitters like Evil Dead and Night of the Living Dead.  Given such a tough act to follow, how does the sequel measure up?  Well, let's just say it's bigger, brasher, and most definitely bloodier.  But is it better?

We pick up the action where the first movie left off.  Martin (Vegar Hoel) just sawed his own arm off with a chainsaw, accidentally killed his girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), and escaped from the clutches of a horde of Nazi zombies that killed the rest of his friends. "escape" may not be technically correct since the undead led by Herzog (Orjan Gamst) attack before Martin can get his SUV started.  Herzong loses an arm during the scuffle and Martin crashes after shaking the Nazi commander.  In hospital, the police think Martin murdered his friends.  Worse, the doctors reattached what they thought was his severed arm.  The arm has a mind of its own and helps Martin flee...after killing a rather pleasant 12 year-old boy who'd been in touch with a group in America known as the Zombie Squad.  This "Squad" consists of three nerds who still live with their parents.  They are leader Daniel (Martin Starr), Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer), and Blake (Ingrid Haas) and after getting the full story from Martin, fly to Norway to kick some zombie butt.

Martin discovers that Herzog's arm has the power to resurrect the dead, and these reanimated corpses are loyal him (Martin).  Daniel and Martin figure out that 70 years ago, Hitler gave Herzog a mission to wipe out a small Norwegian town and undead Herzog's goal is to complete his mission.  The Nazis raid a WWII museum and get their hands on a tank and march toward said town.  In order to stop them, Daniel convinces Martin to use his arm power to reanimate a troop of Russian soldiers Herzog executed (hence the Red vs. Dead).  The final battle takes place in the conveniently evacuated town.

The tongue in cheek humor is reminiscent of Evil Dead 2 and even Army of Darkness to a degree.  At one point, Daniel tells Martin, "I've seen a thousand zombie movies but never anything like this.  You've created a whole new genre."  Like that.  Plot holes abound but are offset by scenes like when the Nazis siphon fuel for the tank by using the intestines of a still-living victim.  Creatively speaking, though, individual death shots and the final battle in general are surprisingly dull.  Also surprising were the number of gag-inducing scenes involving vomit.  Just...gross.  Worse yet is Martin's decision to visit the grave of his dead girlfriend.  Remember his new power?  Yes.  You sit there thinking, "Oh, he won't do that.  Will he?"  Again...gross.  By the way, the first film was in Norwegian with English subtitles.  This time, everyone speaks English.  I'm not sure why, really.  At least it's not dubbed.

I should mention this film broke the rules.  They killed kids.  First the 12 year-old, then a group of three younger boys playing in a sandbox were run over by the tank which then lobbed a mortar at two baby carriages.  Oddly, this didn't bother me much.  It's that kind of movie.  So over the top that you automatically forgive their trespasses, whether they be narrative goofs or child murdering.  Or perhaps the filmmakers wanted to reinforce what we all already know:  Nazis, dead or alive, aren't very nice people.

The Skinny

Acting:  Hoel plays Marin in much the same way Campbell played Ash; hapless, confused, but ultimately heroic.  Starr channels his inner Zachary Levi (Chuck) to such an extent that for a few seconds, I thought it actually was Levi.  DeBoer and Haas could stand to spend some time at the Actor's Studio but aren't awful.
Story:  Unique?  Absolutely.  The only beef I have is the failure to explain how Herzog became cursed and by whom.  The hint of supernatural influence is too much of a tease.  Maybe we'll get a better explanation in the next film.
Direction:  It felt awkward.  Nothing detrimental, just...cumbersome.  Could be an editing issue.
Production Values:  I've said it before and I'll say it again - Norway is a beautiful country.  They spent nearly six times as much on this sequel as they did on the first film, and if I'm honest, it doesn't show.  Maybe Hoel wanted more money or maybe it was for the tank.  At any rate, it looks fine.
Gore/FX:  Oh, deary me.  There is gore, yes.  And blood by the truckload.  In other words, groovy.
Scares:  Scares were not on the menu this time around.
Ending:  Let's see...Bonnie Tyler's "Total Eclipse of the Heart" plays while Martin and undead girlfriend Hanna reenact Jack and Rose's steamy backseat scene from Titanic.  In other words, all kinds of wrong.  There's another ending after the credits roll that leads one to believe another film is inevitable.
Verdict:  Should you see Dead Snow 2 - Red vs. Dead?  Of course.  It's gonzo zombie craziness cranked to eleven.  What's not to like?

Rating:  4 out of 5

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