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Martin (Vegar Hoel) hasn’t had the best vacation. He accidentally killed his girlfriend with an axe. He cut his own arm off with a chainsaw. And his friends still got devoured by a battalion of Nazi Zombies. This morning, he woke up in a hospital bed with a new arm – but it’s a super-powered Zombie arm that wants to kill him and anything else it can reach. Martin’s pissed. And, with the help of his new Zombie Squad pals, he’s gonna deliver some payback to Standartenführer Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) and his precious Nazi gold – by raising an undead army of his own. (From Well Go USA’s official synopsis)

 Dead Snow 2
Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow was an entertaining kitchen sink of a zombie movie that mixed and matched the joys of ‘80s/’90s gore-fests, like Peter Jackson’s Braindead ( Dead Alive), Stuart Gordon’s Re-Animator, and, of course, Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies. It was dripping with mollifying fan-service – besides recreating a dozen scenes from old favourites, one character was literally wearing a Braindead t-shirt – and overstayed its welcome with a protracted climax that managed to make outrageously goopy violence kind of boring. But it was a good enough time for a single viewing on rainy afternoon and a technically impressive, considering its itty-bitty budget. Since then, Wirkola found surprise success with his Hollywood debut, the similarly outrageous Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (it wasn’t a blockbuster, but it quadrupled its budget). Following that, the writer/director could practically punch his own ticket, assuming the cost was low enough, but he made the more nostalgic choice and returned to Norway to make Dead Snow 2, which was subtitled Red vs. Dead for its US release.

The obvious impulse for a sequel would be to make the same movie again and escalate the action, but, with nearly six times the budget at his disposal and the blatant callbacks to other films out of his system, Wirkola is free to create his own brand of gory chaos. Amongst the fast-paced, high-energy violence is a budding Nazi zombie mythology, brimming with fun and original ideas. The key addition is the lead zombie’s magical capacity to raise legions of loyal living dead with a mere touch – an ability he passes on to the returning hero when a confused doctor accidentally switches their severed arms following an accident at the beginning of the film. Wirkola uses the new story elements to increase the scale of the production, eventually building to an epic, Braveheart-inspired Nazi zombie vs. Soviet zombie melee. Besides advancing the Nazi zombie narrative far beyond any previous movie, the pre-battle plot also feels like an alternate Evil Dead sequel; one where the hero is blamed for killing all of his friends in the cabin and pursued by the authorities while simultaneously finding a way to stop the supernatural evil. The obnoxiously nerdy in-jokes have been carried over from the original film, but don’t overwhelm the genuinely funny gore gags, the dry-witted, absurdist police interactions, or the cynical comedy – children, the elderly, and the handicapped are all killed for a laugh without any sentiment. I could’ve done without the casual homophobia, though.

 Dead Snow 2

Video


Dead Snow 2 was clearly shot using digital HD camera rigs (I’m not sure which, but would guess that Wirkola returned to the Arri Alexas he used on Hansel & Gretel) and is presented here in 2.40:1, 1080p video. Wirkola and cinematographer Matthew Weston utilize the digital format’s smooth blends and strong colours effectively, but the overwhelming clarity makes some of the more expansive images look ‘cheap’ (for the lack of a better word). It’s not really good for the film and the lack of texture is kind of disconcerting, but makes for an impressively crisp and consistent HD image. Even the fuzzy, soft focus backgrounds feature near-perfect gradations (and little or none of the banding that often appears on WellGo discs). The colour palette is informed by the overcast skies of the surrounding area, which, along with the blooming white highlights, desaturates the more middling hues. Still, a number of more vibrant colours, like the rich red of the Nazi flag, punch out against the thick blacks and grayed environments.  

 Dead Snow 2

Audio


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack pretty thin during dialogue-heavy sequences, but there are plenty of standout moments that keep the channels busy, including various scenes where magic zombie-raising powers are used and the sloppy, crunchy battle sequences. The explosions are big, the zombie groans are bassy, and the impacts are squishy. Christian Wibe’s music has a digital tinge on some occasions, but his compositions are pretty sophisticated and include some big, brassy action cues that are well-integrated into the already busy sequences. Note that, unlike its predecessor, Dead Snow 2 was shot in both English and Norwegian (with some German and Russian thrown in for zombie language). It was not dubbed in post, so viewers should not be concerned by the lack of a Norwegian language option. The ‘international’ or Norwegian version is included as a Blu-ray exclusive extra.

 Dead Snow 2
Extras include:
  • International version of the film – the aforementioned Norwegian version, presented in 1080p, with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 sound. There doesn’t appear to be any difference in terms of gore between the two cuts.
  • Audio commentary with Wirkola
  • A®men (14:00, HD) – A short film directed by Thomas Lunde a poor sap that loses an arm in a machinery accident. The arm grows back, but has a mind of its own.
  • VFX breakdown (1:50, HD)
  • Dead Snow digital comic book (2:20, HD)
  • Trailers for other WellGo and eOne releases


 Dead Snow 2

Overall


Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is a sizable improvement over the low-budget original. It has more action, more ideas, funnier jokes, and just as much amusing gore, but without quite so many allusions to other splatter comedies. But it’s still pretty referential and wastes quite a bit of time on lamely lewd jokes, so I’m thinking that maybe the third time will be the charm for writer/director Tommy Wirkola (stay tuned through the credits for a tease of part three). WellGo USA’s Blu-ray looks very nice, limited only by the extremely digital look of the film, sounds fantastic for a relatively modest production, and features both the English and Norwegian language versions of the film, alongside an amusing (though unrelated) short film.

 Dead Snow 2

Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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