Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Faith in Zombie Movies Has Been Renewed

Just when you think there's never anything new to see, as far as movies go...there are remakes of old movies and TV shows, sequels, prequels, and books turned into movies...it's all just the same old rehashing, right? And considering I actually prefer the typical American pop culture machine when it comes to movies, I've found a new movie.

It's about Nazi soldier zombies. And gosh, their uniforms held up so nicely all this time!

No, seriously...Nazi soldier zombies set in modern day. Dead Snow, also known by it's Norwegian name, Død Snø, came out earlier this spring. I just read something about it last week and was intrigued immediately so I had to find it. And I love a good zombie movie. It's such a new and original take on a film genre that's been around since the 1930's. Wendy Bock of Associated Content reported the first zombie movie was made in 1932.

"In 1932, Victor Halperin directed "White Zombie" with a cast of Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, Joseph Cawthorn, Robert Frazer, John Harron, and Brandon Jurst. Lugosi plays voodoo master Murder Legendre who turns people into zombies. The first on-screen zombie in this film was actor John Peters. The zombie that the title "White Zombie" refers to is the character Madeline, played by Madge Bellamy."

But back to Dead Snow. Here's the synopsis, so you might want to stop reading now if you might want to see this movie. The movie moves forward to eight medical students on Easter vacation. [Think Grey's Anatomy Meets Jason Vorhees.] They stop at a small cabin near Øksfjord. They drink, party, and have sex until a mysterious hiker arrives. He tells them the dark history of the region; during World War II, a platoon of Nazis led by the dreaded Colonel Herzog occupied the area. The Nazis abused and tortured the local people, stealing all their gold. The citizens finally managed to stage an uprising. The surviving Nazis, including Colonel Herzog, were chased into the mountains. It was assumed that the Nazis all froze to death.

Afterwards, the students find an old wooden box filled with gold. Before they can celebrate, they see an army of Nazi zombie soldiers lurching through the snow towards them. The Nazis have come back to life for their gold. The students know their only chance to survive is to fight the zombies and get to their car to escape. The students arm themselves with a chainsaw and other weapons, and fight the zombies.

I have to say, this movie rocked. Wikipedia described it as a Norwegian comedy zombie film and that's pretty accurate but its more horror than comedy. There was a great tool shed scene and a zombie showdown scene that seemed like it might have been done in homage to Shaun of the Dead. The whole rest of the movie felt like a great George Romero zombie film crossed with the first Friday the 13th.

There are a couple of reasons why I think this movie worked so well. For one, it doesn't seem to follow the typical modern day pattern for horror movies. It doesn't rely on the same kind of psychological horror that movies like Saw and Hostel do. This flows along more like horror movies of the 70's and 80's, when the killer just killed, and you didn't know the whole story as to why. You think you do, but when the movie ends, you realize you might not know it all after all.

And I have to admit, Dead Snow has the most interesting use of a zombie's intestines that I've ever seen.

But beyond the reasons as to why it works, Dead Snow has the most DISGUSTING scenes EVER to take place in a cabin's outhouse, and that's all I'm going to say about that. Just don't eat when you're watching those scenes. You'll know them when the first scene starts.

I do have to nitpick here for just a second...in the big face off between the zombies and the students, I think I saw a couple of the zombies "killed" in ways that wouldn't necessarily kill them "in real life." Everyone that's ever seen any movie knows that to kill a zombie, you have to destroy the head and brain, or cut their heads off. I think I saw a couple of the soldiers drop dead and they weren't beheaded.

Earlier today, I was trying to come up with some other movie that I could compare Dead Snow to, in terms of the originality of it, because I'm a movie nerd and I was that impressed with it. The closest I could come was Wicked, the Broadway musical. I saw the traveling version of Wicked earlier this spring. And I do realize that Wicked was actually a book first, but either way, I loved Wicked because it was such an incredible prequel to a story everyone knows: The Wizard of Oz. It's almost like I can't fully describe Dead Snow, it's like something to see, but the story has raised the bar for future zombie movies.

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