Dead Snow: Red vs Dead — Peak Zombie Silliness?

Dead Snow: Red vs DeadI remember when I first heard about Dead Snow, the Norwegian zombie film with a great love of intestines. I was in the hospital, bored out of my mind. And I came upon a small item in the newspaper about this new film about Nazi zombies. I knew I had to see it. And it wasn’t long after I was free from medical prison that I did just that. I wasn’t disappointed. It was a fine film. But given that it end, as is proper for the genre, with everyone dying, I figured that was that. But no. Two and a half years ago, the gang got back together for Dead Snow: Red vs Dead.

The truth is that not everyone died at the end of Dead Snow — it just seemed like it. Martin gave the gold back to the Nazi zombies and was allowed to go. But when he got in his car, he found that he had inadvertently kept a gold coin. On seeing it, he says, “Fuck!” And we see the Nazi commander at the driver side window; he punches the window and the film cuts to black. Credits. So actually, it’s the perfect opening for Dead Snow: Red vs Dead.

Dead Snow 2 Ups the Silliness

The two films share much in common. They have the same overall sensibility. And that is simply that zombie movies are ultimately silly and thus comedies. The gore is there for laughs. And hey: Nazi zombies! But as Nigel from This Is Spinal Tap would say, Dead Snow: Red vs Dead brings the silly up to 11. Or more like 12 or 13. It is not only very silly, it is in love with its own silliness.

Here is a short list of some of its divine silliness:

  • Martin and the Nazi commander each have their arms cut off and get the other’s arm reattached. This leads to things like Martin attacking a black guy because his arm is racist.
  • The Zombie Squad, professional zombie killers, come from America. They consist of three nerds whose only actual experience is watching films. Nonetheless, they manage to kick some major zombie ass.
  • Martin raises an army of Soviet zombies killed by the Nazis during World War II and there is literally a war between the Red Zombie Army and the Nazi Zombie Army.
  • The film ends with Martin reanimating Hanna — his girlfriend who was killed in the first film — and they, well, do it. But it’s even more delightfully twisted than you are thinking.

The core of the film is Vegar Hoel’s wonderful performance as Martin. He’s the only person in the film who seems truly to grok that there are Nazi Zombies roaming the land. Even the police seem strangely disconnected as they watch the two zombie armies fight each other.

In the Silly Zone

There’s something more. The film starts off with something of a serious observation. When Martin wakes up in the hospital, he finds that the police think that he killed his friends. That does make sense. I can imagine the Nazi zombies collecting their own bodies. That’s what armies do, right? So it really does look like Martin is guilty. Lucky for him, the rural Norwegian police are not used to dealing with serial killers and Martin gets away. What’s more, because of his Nazi arm, he ends up becoming an actual serial killer.

At the same time, there are many things in the film that are ham-handed. In particular, the plot wouldn’t make much sense without clumsy expositions numerous times during the film. For example, when all seems lost, one of the Zombie Squad gals says, “Wait! We have to kill him [Nazi commander]! They’re all bound to him like the Russians are to you. If he dies, the others will too.” If only she had realized that a half hour earlier, we could have skipped so much nonsense and death.

And that would have been a shame. When a film is working the silly zone, it can’t really go wrong. Awkward exposition, bad jokes, inexplicable plot devices: it all works to the film’s advantage. But even if none of it worked, we’d always has Nazi zombies. And that’s worth looking at, kid.


Writer-director Tommy Wirkola is thinking about making a third film. I’ll leave it to you to decide if it is a good idea. He said:

As you know, [Martin] has a woman now, so we can deal with that. Maybe he has half-zombie kids. We haven’t seen half-zombies. We talked about opening the next film showing a zombie birth and it being the worst birth ever.

Also, of course, we find out at the end of the credits to Dead Snow: Red vs Dead that the Nazi commander’s head is still undead. So sure: there’s a film in there. It’s just a question of whether this second outing didn’t reach peak silly and that anything more would drift into tediousness. I will stay optimistic.

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