In Praise Of Nazi Zombies

There are some real gems in Entertainment Weekly’s March 21 cover story on “criminally underrated” movies, television shows, albums, books and games, with stars such as Tilda Swinton weighing in with their own highly idiosyncratic recommendations of unsung entertainment options. (“Idiocracy,” yes! “Gentleman Broncos,” huh?)

Buried deep inside the print edition was a list of underrated foreign horror films, courtesy of the magazine’s editorial staff. One entry, “Dead Snow,” came with this intriguing summary: “Nazi zombies terrorize Norway.”

Having followed with some interest the recent explosion of Nordic horror epitomized by the stylish Swedish vampire flick “Let the Right One In” and the darkly comic Finnish fable “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale,” I had to check out “Dead Snow.” I’m pleased to report that this Scandinavian entry in the zom-com genre a mix of blood, guts and laughs along the lines of “Shaun of the Dead” does not disappoint.

It begins with all of the right ingredients: a group of young people in a remote cabin with no cellphone service and a creepy local elder (Bjorn Sundquist) who clues them in to the “evil presence” that lurks in the woods. In this case, the old man’s warning also comes with something of a history lesson. The lingering malevolence is the presence of 300 undead German troops who were driven into the snow-covered mountains by angry Norwegian townsfolk during the Nazis’ World War II occupation of their country. Apparently, they’re still fighting for the motherland.

If it sounds silly, it is, but in the best way. Gags include the sight of a helmeted zombie trying to take a bite of one snow-suited victim, and coming up with a mouthful of goose down. In another, equally absurd scene, one of the protagonists is shown rappelling off the edge of a cliff to safety via a zombie’s unspooling intestines.

Yes, it’s ridiculously gory, with one sequence showing one of the human heroes amputating his own arm with a chain saw after it has become infected by a zombie bite. (Don’t worry, he’s a medical student, so he knows what he’s doing.)

Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola brings a lighter touch to “Dead Snow” than he demonstrated with his English-language debut, last year’s big-budget fairy-tale spoof “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Let’s hope that he hasn’t entirely lost the ability to laugh at himself, or to make a B movie. After a warm reception at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, “Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead” should be popping up on demand soon enough. The original is available through Amazon Instant, Netflix and HitBliss.