This weekend, I finally got around to watching Dead Snow, the much-heralded Nazi-zombie movie from Norway. I thought it was very entertaining and did many things correctly, but also left wishing there had been a teensy-bit more explanation/backstory regarding the zombies themselves.
Dead Snow is the tale of eight modern-day Norwegian medical students who travel to a remote cabin for a fun weekend, but find themselves attacked by the zombies of Nazis who occupied the region back in WW II. Thus beset, the medical students must fight off the zombies and attempt to return to civilization (or at least to an altitude where they can get a cell phone signal).
Dead Snow does many things right. The zombies look awesome. The action scenes are wonderful. The dialogue is generally funny and witty. And there is also a hilarious “meta-level” to Dead Snow, in which the characters cheekily reveal themselves to be aware of the canon of zombie films. (At one point, a character is ripped-apart by zombies whilst wearing a t-shirt advertising Peter Jackson’s zombie film Braindead.)
That much said, I do wish the screenwriter had spent just a little more time on plotting and explanation.
Glaringly, the characters in Dead Snow seem fundamentally uncurious about why deceased Nazis have suddenly returned as zombies who want kill them. (It’s just: “Oh look, now there are zombies. Gee, we better fight them.”) But as these characters are all medical students (who are thus presumably, you know, “science types”), I expected at least one of them to ask: “Why is this happening?” or “How is this possible?” or even “What created these murderous Nazi zombies?”
I can think of many fun explanations the filmmakers could have chosen:
- Some kind of secret Nazi corpse-reanimation experiment took place in occupied Norway up in the mountains in the 1940’s.
- The mountains are cursed by an ancient monster from Norwegian folklore.
- The Nazis swore on a magic item (or made a deal with the devil) to return one day.
But instead, we get nothing. No explanation. (At one point, a mysterious visitor does inform the partying medical students that the region is “evil,” but we get no tactile reason for why zombies would be created). Toward the end of the film, it is revealed what the Nazi zombies “want” from the students, but not how or why they returned from the grave to get it.
I am probably in the minority by wanting more plot from this film. Zombie fans, by and large, seem delighted with Dead Snow. When I was at horror conventions last year, I saw lots and lots of horror fans dressed as Dead Snow Nazi zombies, and every person who had seen the film seemed to love it unconditionally.
I heartily agree that the conflation of Nazis and zombies is an awesome horror film creation; one I suspect will endure for many years. With Dead Snow, it has crawled out of the evolutionary cesspool and flopped around a little. Hopefully, in subsequent films, it will learn how to walk on land.