Helmer/co-writer Andreas Prochaska gleefully piles on the genre thrills in "Dead in 3 Days 2," a refreshingly different follow-up to his first Austrian slasher pic.

Helmer/co-writer Andreas Prochaska gleefully piles on the genre thrills in “Dead in 3 Days 2,” a refreshingly different follow-up to his first Austrian slasher pic. Starring several of the same actors — including the 2006 pic’s striking young lead, Sabrina Reiter — and with an almost identical tech crew, this is more like an old-dark-house thriller than a teen gorefest, with more atmosphere and less plot than its predecessor, though pic ups the violence quotient considerably. If the novelty appeal of an Austrian genre item hasn’t worn off, sequel should see a similarly warm trajectory in theatrical, ancillary and midnight fest slots.

Prochaska has stated that, after demonstrating with “Dead in 3 Days” that it was possible to transpose U.S. horror elements to an Alpine setting, he wanted to prove the idea was valid on its own terms, not just a flash in the pan. With its more confident directorial tone and look and much tighter plotting, pic certainly manages to draw as much menace from the country’s landscape and rural denizens as any other horror movie.

Helmer also confirms again that he knows the genre rules, establishing a clear sense of geography to draw auds in and having considerable fright-fun leading the viewer up the garden path.

College grad Nina Wagner (Reiter) has tried to put the past behind her by moving to Vienna and working in a music store. When she reads a report that the body of the “monster of Ebensee” (which killed three of her friends and almost killed her and friend Mona) has been fished out of a lake, it looks as if she has finally achieved closure.

Well, not quite. Haunted by nightmares of a bloody Mona crying “Help me!,” and unable to get through to her pal on the phone, spunky Nina returns to her native lakeside town to find out what’s up. The gas station where Mona once worked has been taken over by Chinese restaurateurs, and word is Mona’s moved back to her hometown, Tyrol.

The trail leads to an isolated inn high in the snow-covered mountains, run by a woman (Barbara Weber) with three sons: Gust (Martin Loos), Josef (Philipp Rudig) and Hans (Helmuth A. Haeusler). Sex pervert Josef was suspected of killing a girl three years ago, and no one in their right mind goes near the place — apart from Nina.

Even as the story cranks up during the early stages, Prochaska keeps the shocks coming in the form of dream sequences before the real bloodletting starts, after Nina is imprisoned in the inn by the barking-mad Josef. As Ebensee cop Kogler (Andreas Kiendl, encoring from the original) follows Nina’s trail, helped by a young local woman, Gabi (Anna Rot), the violence escalates.

Plot could just as easily have been set among a bunch of crazies in the American Deep South, but the picture draws as much tension from the snowy Alps (and its sudden storms) as the first outing did from the placid but murky waters of Ebensee. Onscreen almost the whole time, the diminutive Reiter carries the movie with a combo of resourcefulness and bravado, and is up to its considerable physical challenges.

Second half starts to feel a bit repetitive with its creaking-door thrills, but d.p. David Slama’s fine widescreen lensing (amber interiors, snowy white exteriors) and careful visual compositions (from closeups of eyeballs to shadowy framing) maintain interest.

Dead in 3 Days 2

Austria

Production

A Frenetic Films release of an Allegro Film production. (International sales: Celluloid Dreams, Paris.) Produced by Helmut Grasser. Directed by Andreas Prochaska. Screenplay, Agnes Pluch, Prochaska.

Crew

Camera (Fujicolor, widescreen), David Slama; editor, Karin Hartusch; music, Matthias Weber; art director, Claus Rudolf Amler; costume designer, Max Wohlkoenig; sound (Dolby Digital), Thomas Szabolcs; sound designer, Johannes Konecny; assistant director, Andrea Inreiter-Aust; casting, Nicole Schmied. Reviewed at Locarno Film Festival (Piazza Grande), Aug. 9, 2008. Running time: 113 MIN.

With

Sabrina Reiter, Anna Rot, Julia Rosa Stoeckl, Andreas Kiendl, Martin Loos, Philipp Rudig, Helmuth A. Haeusler, Barbara Weber, Michou Friesz.
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