Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead - review

2014 (Norway)

2015 Entertainment One Blu-ray R(B/2)

Contains spoilers.

Dead Snow was a brilliant film, but it was also a bit of a confusing one. Not confusing in terms of plot and story; the way it told the derivative cabin in the woods cum Friday 13th albeit with Nazi zombies not Jason pick em off slasher was entirely gettable. But confusing in terms of identity, starting all dark with jumpy horror and switching half way through to full on Bruce Campbell at his audacious zany best. I reviewed it very early for the blog and this was enough to see it relatively down marked. It's the one review that has always sat heavy on me though. While confident to go against the crowd I couldn't help but notice it's appearance on many greatest zombie film lists, so with more (hopefully) insight with the genre I decided to use this look at Dead Snow 2 as an excuse to watch it again.

I ended up re-rating the film coming to the opinion that while there was still a spot of stylistic schizophrenia, if one was pull the whimsy and humour from the second half into the first rather than what I did last time being disappointed that the tension and fear was so eagerly brushed aside then the film held up far better. Go read my review but it's safe to say I'm now rather fond of the film. Anyway...

What of Dead Snow 2? Well, first off it doesn't make these mistakes. In fact Dead Snow 2 doesn't really make any mistakes at all. Cementing itself purely as a black comedy it continues the manic adventures that concluded Dead Snow, dials it up to max and is quite frankly nigh on perfect, and easily one of the best zombie films ever made. In fact, and I may get some criticism for this, in my opinion it perhaps more perfectly than most also captures the look and feel of Evil Dead since Campbell fought the Army of Darkness than any other film since.

Ørjan Gamst is back as Nazi commander Standartenführer (Oberst) Herzog, a Draugr (aptrganga or aptrgangr transl. again-walker) aka Revenant; an undead creature from Norse mythology up and about to protect his ill-gotten treasure. Except with the Nazi gold reclaimed (Dead Snow), and for a narrative excuse for him to expand his remit from just the barren tundra near Øksfjord, Norway into the town itself, he recalls Hitler's last order to raze the place and its population to the ground in a petty act of revenge for their acts of sabotage some, now seventy years ago.

Cue, death, destruction, blood, intestines, tanks blowing up babies and a general lack of any taste and decency and one of the best laughs I've had in years. Now cut from the shackles of the early part of the first film to at least attempt to stay sensible and rational, Director (and also one of the writers) Tommy WirkolaIt is free to indulge any and all ideas, however absurd or non-canon, and not break the film's overall coherence. Herzog is now the slightly more cognizant, talkative and able commander, the brainless zombie horde under his control has been expanded to include exaggerated comic roles such as a medic, tank driver and navigator, and his opposition have been heavily upgraded from traditional cabin-in-the-woods / Friday 13th sent to die trope.

Vegar Hoel is Martin, sole survivor from the first. Beaten, bloody, and now armed with not just his new found extreme zombie survival skills, but Herzog's arm, is the new Bruce Campbell. Armed with all the same quirks and qualities, though maybe not quite the charm, he's manic, desperate, slightly insane from all he's experienced, and most importantly, he's up for the fight. Switch chainsaw for magic arm, with the ability to raise the dead, he now also has the same iconic tools and mentality to challenge a foe which on first appearance was unchallengeable. Demonstrating real flare, vision and imagination WirkolaIt Martin isn't left alone for the task, soon picking up an assortment of companions, from the Zombie Squad™, three young US geeks with a love of all things Z, an out of his depth, introverted WW2 museum curator and the new Bub, who's bound to be a cult favourite: Sidekick Zombie (Kristoffer Joner). Their interaction is witty, natural, and despite being caricatures, their addition is a welcome addition opening up avenues to daft scenes and jokes that are masterfully taken, while never exploited.

Dead Snow 2 isn't a film, it's more an experience. A riotous explosion of guts, blood and fun; it's perfectly paced, perfectly formed and oozes style and imagination from a director and team that clearly understand how to approach the absurdness and inherent contradiction that lies at the heart of zombie cinema. With never a dull moment, never a distraction WirkolaIt, like Raimi, has managed that illusionist trick of presenting a world and story that is both laughable and preposterous in a way that is both coherent and tangible. Easily one of the top zombie films ever made we also finally have a worthy successor to Campbell, who now surely has entwined himself in such a way as a third without him would feel bereft. Dead Snow 2 is everything you'd want from an absurd splatter horror comedy. It's the best Evil Dead / Dead Alive (Brain Dead) film we've had in quite some time, and it's 10/10.


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