The Norwegian film Dead Snow from 2009 managed to offer something a little fresh into the zombie genre, it was a Norwegian zombie film. It was also probably the least trashy movie to date to include nazi zombies. The movie was a solid hit, as Norwegian zombie films go, and Hollywood noticed director Tommy Wirkola and gave him the gig of directing Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (a terrible film that was nonetheless a minor hit). But Wirkola didn’t turn his back to his roots and went back to Norway to make a sequel to the film that made him famous. So now we have Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead (Just gonna refer to it as Dead Snow 2 for the remainder of this review).
Dead Snow 2 starts off immediately after the first one ended. Our main hero, Martin (Vegar Hoel), thinks he has escaped the zombies when they suddenly pop up out of nowhere. He manages to escape but then gets caught by the police and arrested as they suspect he murdered all his friends who died in the first one. So now he has to deal with both the police and the zombies. Added to the mix are an American “Zombie Squad”, some bumbling policemen and a massive nazi tank, among other things. Just another day in northern Norway.
The first Dead Snow movie was roughly one half a decent bit of nazi-zombie nonsense and one half a rather dull teen flick with unmemorable characters and blah exposition. But with things having already been set up Dead Snow 2 delves immediately into the action and sticks with it for the most part.
This is very much a good thing as it makes Dead Snow 2 a rare beast: A sequel that improves upon the original movie. Though maybe not by a whole lot. But perhaps the main reason for this sequel being better than the first is that it has more enjoyable, and more varied, characters. There’s the silly policemen, including the police chief who’s the dumbest of them all (how he got the job is a mystery, as with many other dumb policemen in the history of cinema) and gets funny lines likes “Jesus, Mary and Josef Stalin!”. Also worth mentioning is the leader of the Zombie Squad, played by über-geek Martin Starr (of Freaks and Geeks fame). Only Starr could believably portray a thirtysomething man living with his parents who’s devoted his whole life to fighting zombies. The rest of the “squad” consists of two nerdy babes who are probably even bigger geeks than their leader (one of them uses every opportunity to quote Star Wars).
Still, this film could easily have been a lot better. It’s lively and often funny but it’s also not especially clever and the zombie action is often repetitive and is not always very imaginatively staged. Wirkola knows how to move things along and keep the viewer involved but he’s not exactly a great stylist and a little more touch of style is exactly what this movie needed to be something really special.
Despite all that Dead Snow 2 manages to be a slight improvement over the first one, mainly because it doesn’t repeat the first film but ups the ante and expands the premise, and has more action and less drama. So while Dead Snow 2 is far from great it’s still a pretty decent time at the movies and one more addition to the not very long list of sequels that are better than the first film.
It’s worth noting that while Dead Snow 2 is a Norwegian production and set in Norway it was filmed in Iceland. For the most part Wirkola and co. manage to maintain the illusion but there were a few shots where this Icelander couldn’t help but notice familiar things, especially in one shot where a famous Icelandic grocery store is noticeable in the background. But this is a problem only 300.000 Icelandic people have to deal with.
The Ugly: That green track suit Martin wears for most of the film.
The Nasty: When that annoying little kid bites it.
The Sadistic: How that “good” zombie in the “I Love Norway” t-shirt gets treated literally like a doormat.