Sunday, March 29, 2015

"Dead Snow: Red vs Dead" (2014)

Starring Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst and Martin Starr
Written by Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen and Vegar Hoel
Directed by Tommy Wirkola
Rated R - Strong violence and language
Running Time: 100 Minutes

Following the events of the first film, Martin (Vegar Hoel) barely manages to escape the Nazi zombies that killed all his friends on their mountain vacation in Norway. He crashes his car, and is brought to a nearby hospital where he's horrified to hear upon waking up that not only is he being charged with the murders of all his friends, but also that the doctors say they've reattached his severed arm. The only problem with that is it's not his arm they found — it's Herzog's, (Orjan Gamst) the zombie leader. The arm turns out to be super-strong and have something of a mind of its own and a lust for blood.

To find out why, Martin contacts the Zombie Squad, a group of Americans he thinks will be able to help him kill the zombies once and for all. The Squad, led by Daniel (Martin Starr) is actually just a trio of nerds who have seen too many movies, but they come to Norway anyway. Along with a World War II museum guide named Glenn (Stig Frode Henriksen), they'll have to figure out a way to stop Herzog from completing the last mission given to him by Hitler decades earlier: the destruction of an entire town as revenge for sabotaging Nazi war plans.

What do you even say about a movie like this? Abandoning the horror film parody style of the first film for comic book-style action, "Dead Snow: Red vs Dead" ups the ante on its predecessor in every way. The first film took a while to get going, spending time introducing the characters and letting them fool around a bit before the carnage starts. This film starts where that film ends and rarely lets up. That means that "Red vs Dead" is hilariously over-the-top hyper-violent from start to finish.

Certain things don't really make much sense at all. But in a movie this batshit insane, that stops mattering after a while. If there's a way for the movie to get a laugh, the producers go for it. Usually this takes the form of shockingly cartoonish violence. For example, early in the film Martin's arm, knowing it needs to escape from a locked hospital room, actually hurls a small boy through a window. When Martin attempts to perform CPR on the boy, the arm presses down so hard it actually shatter's the boys chest. A moment later, the arm kills a police officer and hot-wires a nearby car... all on its own.

There are so many instances of absurd hyper-violence in this film that it would be hard to go on describing them. Words simply don't do it justice. Once the zombies are unleashed on the Norwegian countryside, this movie starts throwing everything it's got at the audience. Thankfully, that's quite a bit. Nearly every scene contains at least one gag that's a howler; sometimes, when it really gets on a roll, it's hard to stop laughing enough to breathe.

As an action comedy, there's not a lot of depth here, which is to be expected. In the place of character development is a series of running gags, some of which work and some of which don't. A series of jokes involving a zombie that Martin continue to bring back to "life" over and over and over again each time it's killed. Every time this happens, the laughs get bigger.

On the opposite side of that, there's a subplot involving a small-town police department trying to find Martin in their jurisdiction that goes nowhere and feels like it was inserted to pad out the film's running time. It's not particularly funny, and pays off only briefly during the film's climactic battle. The film feels like it grinds to a halt every time we cut back to these goofs. Additionally, one member of the Zombie Squad, Monica (Jocelyn deBoer), has a penchant for quoting "Star Wars" that feels tired and... (sigh) forced.

Still, the majority of "Dead Snow: Red vs Dead" is hilariously, cartoonishly absurd. If you were a fan of the kind of zombie carnage nonsense that made the first film or "Cabin in the Woods" a joy, then you'll probably get a lot of laughs out of this sequel.

See Also
"Dead Snow"