Martin (Vegar Hoel) is having a tough time. His skiing holiday with his friends turned into a massacre when they accidentally awoke a platoon of frozen Nazi zombies and now, as the only survivor, he has to somehow stop the undead fascists as they set their sights on a new target.
Complicating the situation is that his own severed arm has been surgically replaced with the arm from the zombie commander Herzog (Orjan Gamst) which has something of a mind of its own. His only chance is to contact a group in the US who call themselves, “The Zombie Squad” in hopes they can somehow help him as the Nazi zombies march inexorably towards a sleepy Norwegian village…
Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead is that rarest of beasts – a sequel that improves on the original. Admittedly, that is not a particularly high bar in this case. Dead Snow was a derivative, unfunny mess that only sprang to life in a splatter-laden final act. Right from the outset, the follow-up is a step up as it picks up right after the first left off.
The lack of set-up means the plot can get rolling immediately and the pacing in general is much improved. The film holds the attention throughout, with a series of gory set-pieces stopping things ever getting mired down. It all builds to a mass open-field battle between the Nazis and a group of Russian zombies reanimated by Martin to end a decades-old blood feud.
Where the original Dead Snow relied almost completely on references and jokes from other horror films, this time the confidence is there to strike a more original path. The film is all the stronger for it.
After his soujurn into Hollywood with 2013’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, writer/director Tommy Wirkola presents a much more polished sequel here. The camerawork is fluid, the editing vastly improved and the overall package is much slicker all round.
The US presence is interesting – the Zombie Squad (led by Martin Starr) are American and so speak English, as do all of the Norwegian characters whenever any of the Squad are present. That leaves only a few films where only Norwegian characters are present alone, but even then they speak English…except in another version of the film available as an extra feature here, which has those scenes in Norwegian and with (obviously) different takes.
Tonally, the Zombie Squad trio feel out of step to the rest of the film. The humour with the other characters stems from their situation (when Martin’s possessed arm rips internal organs out of a small child, he calls out to a watching police officer, “It’s not what it looks like!”) whereas the Zombie Squad characters try to crack jokes. In particular, Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) makes endless Star Wars references that are never funny and always annoying.
This is the main flaw with Dead Snow 2. While it is intermittently humorous, it is certainly nowhere near as funny as it thinks it is. For every joke that elicites a chuckle, there are three that fall flat. As with the first movie, Dead Snow 2 is at its strongest when wading into the over-the-top gore for laughs and, once again, there are plenty of intestine-related gags.
The cast seems a bit lost amongst the jokes at times. Hoel’s Martin remains appropriately taciturn throughout, but other seems unsure as to how broad to go. This only adds to the uneven feel of the comedy and badly hampers the film’s effectiveness.
There are enough quality moments to carry the day for Dead Snow 2, but it is a mixed bag of a movie. The originality helps hugely and this is a fun flick, if never truly exceptional.
Aside from the already-mentioned international version of the film, the other key extras are a featurette and a short film.
The featurette is a rapid-fire look at some of the VFX composite shot constructions, but it breezes by very quickly and is very superficial.
The short film by Thomas Lunde is Armen (The Arm), which is related to Dead Snow 2 by virtue of it being about a man with a possessed arm. It is a very polished piece of work but at 14 minutes it is at least 10 minutes too long, although the punchline just about makes it worthwhile.