Review: Dead Snow (2009) + bonus mini-views!

Mild spoilers follow. Proceed with care.

Nothing new is brought to the genre table in Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow, but it’s pure entertainment nonetheless. The characters are stock, cut from the same cloth as the characters in just about every other ‘kids at a remote cabin’ movie, and the situations are more or less standard. We’re even treated to the creepy old man who knows the entire cursed history of the area, and who is perfunctorily dismissed as he is in every other horror film.

However, the joy in this one mainly comes from the heavy gore and from the hat-tips to films like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, Shock Waves and Zombie Lake. All the intestinal violence one can handle is here, and then some, including a neat little visual gag involving some impromptu rappelling. Characters stitch themselves up with duct tape, and one character — who incidentally is sickened by the sight of blood — performs a little chainsaw surgery a la Ash Williams. The stark white setting of Norway in deep winter serves as a gorgeous backdrop for all this blood, and Wirkola makes sure we know it, frequently allowing the camera to linger on the snow-capped mountains and ice-covered trees before sullying the shot with buckets (and buckets) of gore.

Never one to shy away from a good (or a bad) b-movie, I enjoyed Dead Snow for what it was: gory entertainment that’s skinny on plot but high on fun. This is definitely the kind of movie you show at a party, with a few drinks and plenty of like-minded friends. If you’re looking for the next great horror film, you’ve come to the wrong zombie-infested forest. If you’re looking to kill 90 minutes with a lot of splatter and a few laughs, then come on in…the cabin’s waiting.

Bonus Mini-Views!

Bug (2006, William Friedkin): A woman (Ashley Judd) stuck in a dead-end life becomes dangerously involved with a strange man (Michael Shannon) who believes the Army implanted him with microscopic bugs that record and control his actions. Based on a stageplay by Tracy Letts, Friedkin’s increasingly paranoid and claustrophobic film takes a few logical leaps in the progression of the main characters’ relationship — Judd’s character seems a little too eager to believe everything her counterpart tells her — but overall packs a fairly solid punch to the gut. Everyone here looks like they could use a good shower, and the sets are perpetually dirty (until the tinfoil hat ending), so get ready to feel grimy.

Sleepy Hollow (1999, Tim Burton): Intrepid detective Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) is called to a tight-knit New England town to investigate a spate of decapitations, presumably by the legendary Headless Horseman (Christopher Walken), but what he discovers is a web of deceit, cover-ups, secrets and lies. Eschewing his trademark dark whimsy for a more cutthroat and creepy look, Burton gives us his take on the classic Washington Irving tale, tweaking the story in places and actually improving it a bit in others. Depp fans will love his trademark quirkiness as the blood-shy Crane, and Christina Ricci shines as Katrina van Tassel, a local girl with closer ties to the Horseman than she ever imagined. Expressionistic and mottled, Burton trades in showy charm to give audiences a thrill ride of horror — but with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Dr. Giggles (1992, Manny Coto): The psychotic son (genre favorite Larry Drake) of a mass-murdering, heart-stealing doctor escapes from the asylum to pick up where his beloved father left off, and it’s up to a girl with a genetic heart defect to stop him. Take one part z-grade horror, add a few handfuls of awful puns, throw in some character actors (including Holly Marie Combs and Cliff De Young) and you get this movie. Not good by any stretch of the word, this one still offers up an awfully goofy time. Take with a huge grain of salt and call the doctor in the morning.


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