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A scene from Dead Snow, the story of a group of Norwegians vacationing in Axefjord, the mountainous territory of a Nazi zombie battalion.

2 out of 4 stars


Dead Snow

  • Directed by Tommy Wirkola
  • Script by Tommy Wirkola and Stig Frode Henricksen
  • Starring Charlotte Frogner, Orjan Gamst, Stig Frode Henriksen and Vegar Hoel
  • Classification: 18A

Zombie movies shouldn't be like actual zombies. Zombies are joiners by nature and each one tends to behave very much like the reanimated corpse ahead of it in line. Every new zombie movie, however, has to be a little bit different than the one that came before it. Otherwise, it wouldn't be horrifying or much fun.

So Dead Snow fulfills one zombie-movie prerequisite. It's different. You've probably seen college kids encounter flesh-eating creatures on spring break before.

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But have you ever seen Norwegian medical students scoot off to the Lyngen Alps, where they're set upon by a squadron of flesh-eating, World War II-vintage Nazi zombies?

Didn't think so. What's more, the flesh-eating is done with a flair that will be appreciated by connoisseurs of the genre. The students are alternately pulled apart like fresh French bread and chewed up in little morsels, as you would gnaw the kernels from a cob of corn. They're surprised in outhouses, jumped on in caves, and chased over cliffs and up trees.

No doubt about it, Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola knows how to throw a zombie cook-out. He also knows how to make something scary out of nothing. There are some dandy night scenes here, with frightened collegians throwing probing flashlight beams into the inky void that is the mountain night - sequences that expertly prey upon and magnify our fear of the dark.

All good bad stuff.

What's weird about Dead Snow is it gets the tricky part of the zombie movie right - the ghoulish payoff - but it botches the set-up, the relatively easy part, horribly.

Wirkola has next to no interest in the carload of students brought together for spring break. Norwegian medical students should think of suing the director for malpractice; surely they can't be this dull. Every one is a cliché on loan from Hollywood teen horror movies, from the pudgy film buff rattling off horror-movie lore to the bad girl who is quickly punished for moral indiscretions.

And not one of them says or does anything of interest. There are no intriguing scenes that play with the conventions of zombie movies. Hell, there aren't even any goofy, sexy scenes that effectively perpetuate the genre. When these college kids go tubing, they're wearing bulky snowsuits and are being pulled by a sluggish snowmobile. Talk about un-sexy.

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The first half-hour of the movie is the one thing that zombie movies are never supposed to be: inexcusably, exhaustingly dull. As mentioned, the film picks up when the bad guys show up for dinner.

But by then, even the most ardent zombie enthusiasts may have lost their appetite for carnage.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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