Stream to Scream: “DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
While generally well-received, financially successful and, at the very least, having earned the notoriety of “that nazi zombie movie” among contemporary horror fans (over the likes of OUTPOST and SHOCKWAVES), DEAD SNOW has been a rather divisive movie among horror audiences. Some fright fans took Tommy Wirkola’s Scandinavian scare fare in stride, praising the fun approach to the material and splattery action that would cement it as a modern midnight movie. Others, however, were less impressed; whether it be using the “harbinger” trope or aping too much of Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD aesthetics, harder critics donned it too derivative for its own good. Thus when a sequel was announced, the response was a surprising balance between cheers and apprehension, even if the time since its premiere had garnered DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD a mounting sense of goodwill.
So when DEAD SNOW 2 came to Netflix earlier this year, this writer saw his chance to give the sequel a fair shake and let it perform on its own merits, despite admittedly enjoying both the original DEAD SNOW and Wirkola’s Hollywood debut HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. Luckily, HANSEL & GRETEL was the kind of experience that was best for Wirkola’s evolution as a filmmaker, as DEAD SNOW 2 is an altogether funnier, bigger and more exciting adventure, which builds upon the last film rather than simply retreading the same material. Furthermore, Wirkola handles the mostly practical splatter and battle scenes with more confidence, resulting in bolder, more unpredictable leaps as well as a much darker sense of humor this time around.
Picking up essentially where the last film left off, DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD shows Martin escaping from the Nazi zombies without his arm and barely his life, while the zombies (who have now recovered their treasure) continue on with the mission that had remained incomplete before their demise. Meanwhile, Martin is now the suspect in the murders of his friends, and escapes custody to try to find answers as well as clear his name. In this adventure, DEAD SNOW 2 brings in a group of American zombie hunters, undead Russian P.O.W.’s and bumbling cops, as well as an homage to EVIL DEAD 2 that feels less derivative and more organic to the plot progression.
A much more clever and cinematic effort than its predecessor, Wirkola also has a great team behind him to make DEAD SNOW 2 better than your average sequel, with no small credit going to co-writers/actors Stig Frode Henriksen and Vegar Hoel. Hoel, Henriksen and Wirkola are working outside their own native tongue for half of the film, and one suspects their script wisely caters to their own sensibilities as much as it does to the American audience that embraced the original so fanatically. Likewise, the cinematography and editing by Matthew Weston and Martin Stoltz, respectively, is much more confident and impressive than the original film as well, especially when it comes to handling the gruesome combat sequences. Speaking of, big compliments are deserved to the team at Spectral Motion, who provided some next level FX work including splattery and seamless digital work as well as brutal practical work as well, all of which feels pivotal to Wirkola’s specific vision.
DEAD SNOW 2 also has the benefit of having a cast that is 100% game for the morbid and twisted turns which the film takes, and are ostensibly more comfortable with the action than the eager cast of the first film. Hoel and Henriksen, who returns in a new role, are both more adept and willing for self-deprecation in their roles this time around, and are often elevated from their chemistry with the incredibly funny (and surprisingly badass) team of Martin Starr, Ingrid Haas and Jocelyn DeBoer. Orjan Gamst and Derek Mears do great physical work under their wealth of make-up prosthetics, especially the former who feels confident to push his performance into more comedic territory at times. In fact, the only real hiccup of the cast would be Hallvard Holmen, and even his performance is marred mainly by a poorly written comic relief role that rarely factors into the plot.
Overall, DEAD SNOW 2 is a more bloody, ambitious and outright fun “nazi zombie” flick than its predecessor, with Wirkola finally establishing more of a craftsman-esque edge to his brand of horror-comedy. With spectacular FX from Spectral Motion, an eclectic cast and a crew that effectively handles the grander scale, DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD delivers on its premise and then some, and makes for the kind of popcorn-chomping gorefest that play so well via a night-in of streaming.
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD is now available for Instant Streaming on Netflix.