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Sundance Film Review: ‘Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead’

Annoying new American characters figure into this broader, dumber sequel.

With:

Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas, Stig Frode Henriksen, Hallvard Holmen, Kristoffer Joner, Amrita Acharia, Derek Mears, Bjarte Tjostheim, Christian Rubeck, Charlotte Frogner, Jesper Sundnes, Ingar Helge Gimle, Carl-Magnus Adner. (Norwegian, English dialogue)

Bigger-not-better sequel “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead” picks up where the 2009 first edition left off, not just plotwise but in taking “over the top” as a starting point. Thus, the original’s gradual buildup toward inspired outrageousness is replaced by immediately full-on gore-horror comedy in a broader, dumber Troma-style vein. If you just can’t get enough Nazi zombie action, this energetic entry duly offers more of the same, and thanks to (or in spite of) its clumsily obvious grab for expanded international audiences via annoying new American characters, the pic is sure to score solid, mostly home-format sales in various territories (Well Go USA Entertainment took U.S. rights at Sundance). But from a quality standpoint, it’s this franchise’s “Blair Witch 2,” a follow-up that ensures few will be jonesing for “Dead Snow 3.”

The sole survivor of a ski-cabin group that unwittingly roused a troop of malevolent dead Nazi occupiers, Martin (returning Vegar Hoel, now a co-scenarist) narrates a quick reap of those events, then suffers one more narrow escape from Col. Herzog (Orjan Gamst), driving his car off an embankment as a result. He wakes up in a hospital where the bad news is that the authorities assume he killed his friends, laughing off the zombie explanation.

The good news is that the arm he sawed off to halt a bite infection has been replaced — though that’s kinda bad news, too, since he discovers it’s Herzog’s undead limb that’s been attached to his person. Said arm, having a will (and superhuman strength) of its own, wreaks havoc before helping him to escape. He soon realizes the zombie battalion is marching down the mountain toward civilization to finish some 70-year-old business: completing Hitler’s order to wipe out an entire town in retaliation for Norwegian anti-Axis subterfuge.

En route, he gains variably competent allies in Glenn (a new role for original cast member/scenarist Stig Frode Henriksen), gay staffer at a local WWII museum, and the self-styled “Zombie Squad,” a trio (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas) of American sibling nerds who’ve been waiting and preparing for the zombie invasion that popular media has taught them will surely come. These crude stereotypes, which perversely seem designed to broaden the pic’s audience demographics, are borderline offensive as well as unfunny. (Whose idea was it to have one Yank endlessly quote “Star Wars” catchphrases? Or to end the film with the hundredth snarky use of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”?) The elaborate gore gags are also generally tiresome, with the particular targeting of the elderly, handicapped and children negating all shock value early on.

Things improve a bit once Martin (whose zombie arm suddenly, arbitrarily starts helping the good guys) manages to revive a troop of Russian POWs executed by the Nazis. Resulting battle (witnessed by cowering local police forces, another group of new characters more irritating than amusing) is diverting enough, leading to a tag sequence that brings back one more original cast member.

High-spirited but hobbled by lame dialogue and sheer overkill, “Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead” marks an instance where too much of a good thing means it just isn’t good anymore. Undiscriminating fanboy types will get their yucks, but the basic idea has gone stale here. Still, the pic is slick and pacey, all tech/design contributions showing the budgetary uptick from the first film.

Sundance Film Review: 'Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 21, 2014. Running time: 101 MIN. Original title: "Dod sno 2"

Production:

(Norway) A Well Go USA Entertainment (in U.S.) release of a Tappelluft Pictures production in association with Nordisk Film, the Fyzz, Eikeland & Haug, XYZ, Sagafilm. (International sales: Elle Driver, Paris.) Produced by Terje Stromstad, Kjetil Omberg. Co-producers, Kjartan Thor Thordarson, Ragnar Agnarsson. Executive producers, Wayne Marc Godfre, Robert Jones, Nick Spicer, Todd Brown, Stig Haug, Geir Eikeland, Tommy Wirkola, Stig Frode Henriksen.

Crew:

Directed by Tommy Wirkola. Screenplay, Wirkola, Vegar Hoel, Stig Frode Henriksen. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Matt Weston; editor, Martin Stoltz; music, Christian Wibe; production designer, Liv Ask; art director, Gunnar Palsson; costume designer, Linn Henriksen; special effects makeup supervisor, Steinar Kaarstein, visual effects supervisor, Bryan Jones; sound, Karen Baker Landers; casting, Andrea Brabin.

With:

Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas, Stig Frode Henriksen, Hallvard Holmen, Kristoffer Joner, Amrita Acharia, Derek Mears, Bjarte Tjostheim, Christian Rubeck, Charlotte Frogner, Jesper Sundnes, Ingar Helge Gimle, Carl-Magnus Adner. (Norwegian, English dialogue)

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