Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
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Friday, Jun 26, 2009

Up until this point, they had avoided responsibility. They lived like nomads, sequestered from family and friends while indulging in their own insular (and happy) homebound careers. But biology - like money, and power, and the possibility of same - changes everything, and for unmarried couple Burt Farlander (John Krasinski) and Verona De Tessant (Maya Rudolph), the lack of a legitimate home for their newborn child brings about the need for change. But with only the slightest connection to the rest of the real world, such a massive personal modification will require a point by point breakdown of the possibilities. Thus begins a road trip which takes the couple back home (to his parents) to Arizona (her friends and family), Wisconsin, Montreal and Miami - and in the process, our expectant parents learn that home is not necessarily where the heart is. It’s actually where true happiness dwells.


For Sam Mendes, such cinematic ground seems strikingly similar to the territory he traversed with such suburban nightmare masterworks as American Beauty and Revolutionary Road. This time around, however, instead of equating ennui and malaise with an upcoming interpersonal Armageddon, the English filmmaker finally finds a funny bone. Scripted by A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius scribe Dave Eggers (along with wife Vendela Vida) Away We Go first appears to be a collection of Americana clichés. But then it actually evolves into a telling statement on growing up, taking charge, and realizing that life cannot be a constant struggle to continuously stray off the beaten path. Sure, the examples that Mendes and his collaborators use seem arch in their stereotypical approaches. But with each chestnut comes a rejection, and a realization.


The trip begins at the Farlander house, where SCTV‘s Catherine O’Hara and Jeff Daniels give middle age wistfulness a wacky, uneven coating. One moment they are celebrating their son’s upcoming parentage. The next they are abandoning him for a long planned pilgrimage to Europe. To the Farlanders, two years seems like nothing. But to new mom to be Verona, it’s like a declaration of grandparental abandonment. Things don’t get better in Phoenix, where ex-coworker Allison Janney puts on one of the worst displays of post-modern maternal cool ever conceived. In both of these sequences, Mendes relies on a kind of Caucasian white face, a blanket denouncement of white man’s culture combined with obvious sitcom types. But by making Burt and Verona disgusted by such outbursts, by giving them the silent critical eye the material mandates, the movie manages to override the Galleria burlesque.


Things change radically once we get to Wisconsin. Maggie Gyllenhaal practically steals the film as LN (“Ellen”), a New Age joke who buys into every organic composting conspiracy theory in the realm of ridiculous hands-off guardianship. Along with her semi-conscious partner Roderick (underplayed brilliantly by Josh Hamilton), they provide Burt and Verona with the chutzpah to finally stand up for themselves. Up until this point, our leads were likely to sit back dumbfounded, politely nodding as one ridiculous idea after another is fostered toward their future. But the minute LN starts her frazzled family bed routine, a light bulb goes off in our heroes’ heads. This is the where their formerly unfriendly and close realm mindset will lead them - into a similarly styled space filled with made-up philosophies and arguably insane pronouncements. And their dinner table reaction to all the hedonistic nonsense is one of Away We Go‘s greatest comeuppances.


At this point, Mendes can no longer avoid the melancholy. Montreal sees the couple facing mortality - both their own and the still unborn child’s - with uneasy trepidation, and an emergency mission to Miami underlines the fragility of their common law relationship. It’s interesting that Away We Go champions such unconventional ‘marriages’, offering Burt and Verona as the far more spiritual and centered pair in a whirlwind of crude and incomplete couples. It’s the same with almost every aspect of the film. As Mendes mocks child rearing and prenatal psychobabble, he gives us a duo that seem so present, so completely in tune with each other and their situation, that we hope none of this nascent negativity sticks. By the time they realize that they simply have to take that necessary leap of faith (during a conversation on a trampoline, no less), we wonder where the jump will take them.


In the end, it’s not very surprising where they land. What’s really amazing is how moving the revelation becomes. For all its jokey upscale jive, the occasional smug self-satisfaction Burt and Verona use to calm their frazzling nerves, Away We Go provides the kind of closure that elevates our ongoing worries. They may not have it all figured out, and there are moments when even their soothing tone of optimism seems blind and unbelievable, but the bottom line remains - these are two people who realized they were wrong and then tried to do the right thing. They took on the list of social requirements for happy families and found the flaws in each and every one. Luckily, Mendes has an amazing cast to collect his thoughts. Krasinski’s Burt is beautiful in his deadpan directness. He doesn’t mince words so much as carefully pick the ones he know will do the most damage. Rudolph elevates her status as a legitimate movie star, looking both stunning and scared as the portal from which all the promise - and problems - commence.


Yet the final shot is something worth celebrating, a moment of perfect peace after 90 minutes of pinball emotions and crisis-like upheavals. As Burt and Verona sit, their arms interlaced, they appear to finally realize that they can have it all - social acceptance and isolated exclusivity. They don’t need to be unhappy married making fun of their own offspring, or miserable martyrs to some unspoken sense of personal diversity. They can be themselves while still seeing the best that the real world has to offer. They are smart enough to accept the good and conscious enough to reject the bad. It may be tough to tell if their arriving daughter will recognize the lengths they have gone to in securing her future. Luckily, they’ve done the leg work for her - and the journey is well worth taking. 


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Friday, Jun 26, 2009

She’s the alien in the other room, the otherworldly creature riddled with a mysterious disease that is, somehow, destroying not only her, but the entire family. Dad maintains an aura of disconnect, while only son Jesse spends far too much time on his own. Mom runs herself ragged seeking any and all answers to her child’s debilitative state as youngest daughter Anna decides to shake the very foundations of what her entire existence has been built upon. You see, this little girl was never truly meant to be. Instead, she was engineered, created to act as a biological bank for her dying sibling to draw upon. And while the figure in the other room shows occasional signs of recovery, Anna is convinced it’s no longer worth playing savior - or perhaps martyr.


As an example of the age old Hollywood weeper as post-modern semi-serious character study, Nick Cassavete’s My Sister’s Keeper is too safe to be wholly successful, too powerful to be merely pushed aside. The basic plot finds Abigail Breslin’s Anna rejecting her role as part of Kate’s (Sofia Vassilieva) fight against leukemia. Ever since her mother and father (Cameron Diaz and Jason Patric, respectively) engineered the girl to be a perfect genetic match for her sister, she’s been poked, prodded and pilfered for anything that can help the curative cause. Now nine, she wants to be medically emancipated, capable of making her own decisions about what can be done to her body (the crisis this time? Kate needs a kidney).


So Anna seeks out the services of reputable shyster Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin) and files suit against her parents. This places Cassavetes in a narrative bind that is almost impossible to get out of. Since we are dealing with a scenario playing out in current circumstances, My Sister’s Keeper must constantly rely on the flashback to fill in details we do not have. Even worse, Casavettes overindulges in the musical montage, avoiding actual conversation and confrontation with any one of a number of somber pop songs. What we want from this material is Ordinary People, the pain of dealing with death pent up and channeled in choice suburban WASP-ish tidal waves. Instead, we get VH-1 and lots of music video vagueness.


At least Cassavetes doesn’t go for the easy cinematic manipulation. Kate is never really treated as anything other than special and spirited, even her last act pre-corpse routine rendered ecclesiastical by an ever-present pearly white smile. Similarly, Breslin, for all her hand wringing and secret keeping has to maintain appearances as well. She cries a river and never once misses her emotional beat. But like much of My Sister’s Keeper, we keep waiting for the denouement, the reason we have to witness all this pain and personal suffering. Even Diaz, delivering the kind of nuanced performance that’s been missing from much of her work, does the arm’s length thing. How this woman can be so tireless and yet so blind to the needs of the rest of her family is flabbergasting.


What sets this movie apart from other examples of obvious tear jerking is the desire by Cassavetes to keep everything serious and somewhat understated. We don’t get the scene of massive Method histrionics because the filmmaker is doing what his Dad did best - let people be people. Patric is not some chesty conquering hero. Instead, he does what he can and escapes to his job as a firefighter when times get tough. Diaz may look like a diva in housewife drag, but she’s actually playing the perfect combination of arrogance and individual delusion. She so believes in what she is doing that there is never a crack in the façade, never a moment’s doubt or self-analysis. While Kate gets a couple of normal kid moments - including a romance with the ridiculously perfect cancer kid Taylor - she’s all flawlessly executed scrapbooks and dreamy, dilated pupils.


Fans of the Jodi Picoult novel will truly be devastated by the changes made here. Gone is Guardian ad Litem character Julia Romano. In her place is a grieving judge essayed with quirky grace by Joan Cusak. More troubling, the film cops out with its ending, avoiding the book’s more ironic conclusion to keep things nice and above the marquee neat. It’s hard to say if staying true to Picoult’s version would have made My Sister’s Keeper more well rounded. As it stands, the entire experience feels like a vigil, a cinematic wake simply requiring a body for finalization, and then a funeral. This is not to say that Cassavetes and crew can’t captivate or even more. There are several scenes that will choke up even the most cynical of moviegoers. But as the story shuffles through its clumsy courtroom antics, as issues are left hanging and unresolved, what could have been excellent comes up merely acceptable.


It also has to be said that this could have been the most cloying of syrupy schmaltz, the kind of bleary eyed Lifetime fodder that makes audiences ashamed of falling for the forced affectations. Cassevetes could have let Diaz do the whole overwrought heroine routine, collect his ample paycheck, and go home. Instead, multiple musical observations aside, he sets the stage and lets things play out organically. After that, only the material and the members of his company can undermine him. Luckily, the entire cast is up to the job of jerryrigging this formula into something a little less generic. It’s more than likely Picoult’s fault that this film doesn’t feel more complex. She sets up a simple idea - a little girl wants to decide what to do with her body - and then adds in a number of unnecessary clichés that tend to take all the gravitas out of the concept.


Still, for those who’ve long given up on the five handkerchief experience, who sense that Hollywood only understands the emotions of greed and envy, My Sister’s Keeper will be a welcome return to some semblance of form. We don’t quite understand the ongoing anxiety over Kate’s continuing decline, why over the last 15 or so years some manner of resolution or reconciliation with the situation hasn’t been reached. This is a movie that feels like its missing parts, a couple of song cues taking the place of necessary clash and explanation. Still, with her pale figure, bald head, black eyes, and freak physicality, Kate makes for an intriguing, unusual center. Luckily, the movie surrounding her is better than one might imagine. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to imagine one better.


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Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009
In the history of half-baked blockbusters, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is raw and runny.

At this point in his career, Michael Bay has one of two options. He can toss aside all his wannabe Spielberg shtick, lower the gig-normous size of his budgets, and deliver a small, carefully constructed comedy/drama about authentic characters in real world situations. He can tone down the bravado and actually dig deep into the psyche of another human being for once, without all the fireworks and falderal. Or he can just keep blowing shit up. Looking at his recent example of trumped up testosterone as talent, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, he may not have a future in superficial pyrotechnics after all. Sloppy, incomprehensible, and louder than a dozen megaton bombs, this senseless shoot ‘em up is all bark and only negligible entertainment bite. When it comes to retro-nuclear bombast, we expect more from Bay. This time, however, he goes way too far.


It’s been two years since Sam Witwicky uncovered the existence of alien robots on planet Earth, and while the Autobots have agreed to help the US military with their containment and clean-up crusade, the dwindling Decepticons have been plotting ways to resurrect their beloved leader Megatron from a watery ocean grave. Help comes in the metal persona of The Fallen, an ancient being whose been looking to destroy the planet for centuries. Locked in his extraterrestrial orbit, he needs a piece of the All Spark to start his sun-killing conquest. While he tries to attend college, Sam becomes an unwitting cerebral storage unit for the cube’s considerable knowledge. This also makes he, and his cross-country gal pal Mikaela prime targets for the evil entities from another world. Hoping to avoid the Decepticons, Sam relies on Optimus Prime and the government to keep him safe. When they both fail him, it’s off to find former Sector 7 Agent Simmons. With his help, he might be able to find the long lost Matrix, resurrect his hero, and save mankind once again.


If you ever wondered what a movie would look like geared toward the underdeveloped brain of a gestating zygote, if you think elements like plot, characterization, and logic just get in the way of your mandatory (over)dose of eye candy, then Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is the insipid illustration you’ve been waiting for. This is junk as justification, the mandatory sequel that feels less like a follow-up and more like a purposeful attempt to wipe the previous film off the face of the Earth. Within its incessantly long running time (as another critic pointed out, just 10 minutes under 2001) and overreliance on special effects is a philosophy so wrongheaded, so antithetical to what we believe is decent popcorn entertainment, that it practically asks to be smacked around. While it’s doubtful, here’s hoping the general public wises up to this waste of time and opens up a can of flopsweat whoop-ass on this atrocious turd. 


There are so many things wrong with this movie that to discuss them at length would be pointless. Instead, a Hall of Shame checklist is probably more effective. In no particular order, we get: humping dogs; crying robots; pot brownies; robot slobber; tired tech geeks; female Terminator-lite; American Chopper, Megan Fox style; machine scrotums; John Turturro as a tortured mama’s boy; Prime gods; yet another ineffectual DC bureaucrat; Borscht Belt level jokes; indistinguishable desert mayhem; wussed out BMOC; and the most racially insensitive sidekick characters ever in the history of cinematic spectacle (take that, Jar-Jar George). That’s right, someone decided to invite Leroy and Skillet to the 2009 PC party, and these despicable little examples of big budget bigotry make the famed Dolemite comedy team look like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern by comparison. It’s not just the jive-talk and cultural clichés (gold teeth? On a machine?). Buried within the ebonics is a litany of inflammatory ethnic fallacies that do nothing but denigrate and defile.


Even the action scenes, Bay’s purported strong point, are (rare) hit and miss. The movie starts out strapping, a city crushing cruise through Shanghai establishing the entire Autobots/Army connection. But things go rapidly downhill as we spend way too much time with Shia LaBeouf’s sitcom slapstick family. They make Jerry Lewis look subtle. Another stellar sequence set in a surrounding forest pays off in some edge of the seat thrills. But toward the middle, when Bay and his scriptwriting rejects have to basically tie in twenty differing narrative threads, the life is literally sucked out of the film. It’s at this point where the director starts channeling his previous canon, lifting moments from Armageddon, Pearl Harbor, and Bad Boys, as if dealing with giant battling robots was just not enough. Indeed, what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen needs is more Robot Jox like stand-offs. We come to a film like this to actually SEE the machine on machine spectacle, not try and interpret it from inside a blur of editing and extreme close-up conniptions.


This is not to say that this seemingly unnecessary sequel won’t placate the faithful. Anyone with an actual jones for bigger and badder Transformer travails will feel their wavering attention spans rewarded. This is all polish and presentation, plasticized cheese painted in the grandest of studio supported patinas. It’s all go, Go, GO!!! There is never a moment to catch one’s breath, to drink in the proposed grandeur of man and massive shapeshifting alien machine co-existing and artfully interacting. There is no sense of scope, no awe-inspiring concept of the epic or the magical. Instead, we are stuck inside Bay’s adolescent fantasies, a place where all women are willing, all guys are dork champions, and all evil is vanquished by that most simplistic of moves - the convoluted script rewrite. Nothing makes sense here, but that’s not important for true fans of this material. They just want Bay to blow shit up - and blow it he does.


For some, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen remains critic proof. It’s the kind of hotwired celluloid crack that keeps the mainstream mesmerized by its pre-natal tendencies for colorful shapes and shiny objects. It’s like a rotten carrot covered in glitter being dangled in front of a dead mule - somehow, it makes sense, but on closer inspection, it’s kind of cruel…and definitely insane. With the amount of money waiting overseas for an easy to translate slice of hackwork Americana, we will most likely be seeing another alien gearhead grudge match a few summers from now. If the Go-Bots are indeed the K-Mart of Transformers, then this film translation of the toy is its Dollar Store sales pitch. Michael Bay may never make that minor character study, but one thing is clear. In the history of half-baked blockbusters, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is raw and runny.


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Friday, Jun 19, 2009

There is a big difference between a documentary and a basic news story. The former is the byproduct of the cinematic artform, and as such, must conform to said standards. The latter is a result of regular journalism and needs to be factual and unbiased. While not mutually exclusive, the two forms usually undermine each other. Just ask fans of Michael Moore, or Errol Morris. At the same time, both require a similarly styled hand, capable of being both honest and compelling, truthful without completely taking sides. As you can see, it’s a delicate balance, an equilibrium that few can find in either category. This is also the main problem plaguing the otherwise insightful Humble Beauty: Skid Row Artists. The subject matter explored is inherently compelling. The flat tone taken in the telling, however, subverts its effectiveness.


Los Angeles’ infamous downtown district Central City East, known lovingly as Skid Row, is ground zero for one of the largest homeless populations in the entire United States. Most are mentally ill. Many have continuing and ongoing medical needs. Few are capable, or even wanting of, aide and assistance. And for a very select number, art is a salvation - nay, an absolute social and communal curative. While reflecting their life on the streets, it also comments on and explains the reasons for their outside existence. For filmmakers Letitia Schwartz and Judith Vogelsang, the story of these gifted individuals forms an aura of hope that provides light where there is darkness, joy where there is sadness, sense where there is insanity, and dignity where all possibility of same is slowly eroded away.


There are really two ways to look at Humble Beauty, both fair and with a kind of unflinching admiration. The first is as a journey of optimism, of watching people unexpectedly marginalized by society taking the opportunity to express themselves - both as a means of personal quantification and as logistical redemption. We hear their individual stories, watch as they discuss their specific works, and wonder how they’ve managed to make it over the years. Their names read like an overview of modern society - Latino and Native, African American and Caucasian. Their motives are as unique as they are unified, the notion that creativity bridging the gap between normalcy and a life on the fringes staying front and center. Many of the canvases they offer are striking in their outsider originality. Some reflect the collective grief all too well. A few mark focused obsession. Together, they form a portrait of determination and defiance unmistakable in its power.


And then there is the other viewpoint, one that wonders why this material isn’t more magical. After all, we are dealing with a subject that seems to have inherent power, that taps directly into emotional wells of amazement, compassion, and in some cases, outrage that few areas can manage. Yet Schwartz and Vogelsang, by playing cub reporters, seem to leech all the fun out of their sublime substance. We are meant to learn here, and there are several voices that make it very clear that the overall agenda of this project is to protect and foster the muse in people that the rest of the world tends to forget. But there needs to be some manner of flash, some kind of artist imprint from the filmmakers themselves to really elevate this information. Without it, Humble Beauty is still incredibly interesting. But this should be moving, or at the very least, emotionally involving. Sadly, some of the film just sits there, acting like the well-meaning lecture it comes across as.


Still, the very heart and soul of these people makes Humble Beauty worth visiting. Seeing the buoyancy in their eyes as they discuss their craft, watching them describe their skills as the images they create prove out their point peppers this documentary with the kind of illustrative excellence that the directing style avoids. Passivity in your point of view may seem professional, but here it hampers the overall message. One imagines Schwartz and Vogelsang visualizing their film as a means of achieving a kind of eye-opening reaction that leads to appreciation, and then advocacy. Yet the key to such a call is depth. We have to really know these people, learn about their lives - not just their talent - and relish in the “there before the grace of God” ideal that usually accompanies such an expose. Without it, we’re left with grace and good intentions, but that’s about it.


Yet this is not meant to take away from the people presented. Each story here has its own significance, a reason for rejoicing within a circumstance where very little happiness can be found. Kudos then to Letitia Schwartz and Judith Vogelsang for bringing this amazing material to light. Yet they still deserve some criticism for failing to fulfill its unyielding promise. Life on the streets is nothing to romanticize and no one is asking these directors to undermine said fact with cinematic superficiality. But when you think about a subject like homeless artists, the narrative possibilities appear boundless. Unfortunately, Humble Beauty is more book report than striking visual (or emotional) homily. With a little less of the former and more of the latter, we’d have a classic. As it stands, this is an informative and sometimes flat experience.


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Friday, Jun 19, 2009

Certain concepts give film fans a chance to get their genre geek groove on - as long as they are done properly. Title something ‘Ninja Strippers’ and you better be ready to show swordplay and skin. Call your latest epic ‘Cannibal Lesbian Vampires’ and the mind’s eye screenplay tends to write itself. It’s the same with subject matter. Offer up something as sublimely sinister (and silly) as ‘Nazi Zombies’ - or perhaps, zombified Nazis? - and you tweak the horror lover’s inner nerd. The very notion of history’s ultimate villains vanquished and then reanimated as the most unstoppable of undead fiends could fuel a thousand nasty nightmares. This is clearly what Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola was hoping for when he created Dead Snow. Borrowing liberally from the Western macabre machine, he creates a winning slice of surreal arterial spray.


Three couples - all medical students - are traveling up to a remote mountain cabin in order to celebrate Easter break. They include an ex-solider, a film fan, a party animal, and a wannabe doc who’s actually afraid of blood. The gals don’t mind their bumbling boyfriends, even when they act like idiots. What does concern them is Sara. She left before the group, wanting to ski her way to the campsite. When she fails to turn up, everyone grows concerned. Things get worse when a random traveler invites himself in and tells a horrific tale of murderous Nazis who used to torture and abuse the locals some 60 years before. While skeptical of his story, two things help change their mind. One - they find a box under the cabin’s floorboards filled with gold and jewelry that the Germans were supposedly hiding. And two - they begin to hear strange noises in the surrounding forest. Sure enough, jackbooted zombies make an appearance, undead members of the Fuhrer’s army led by a decomposing Colonel Herzog. Their aim is simple - kill everyone. And that’s exactly what they intend to do. 


Told in three completely different acts and styles, Dead Snow is like a primer of how the last 30 years of Hollywood horror has redefined the international scary movie landscape. Part one plays on every slasher film ever conceived, giving us a group of “should know better” victims prepping for a party hardy weekend of drink and debauchery. Naturally, some menacing old fart shows up to criticize the coffee and warn them of the area’s haunted past. Once a couple of kids are killed, we run smack dab into Evil Dead territory. It’s hard not to see Part two’s plan since the entire remote cabin/within the woods dynamic is repeated over and over. By the time the threat becomes all too real, we have swung over into the domain of efforts like the Dawn of the Dead remake. Nothing says splatter like a thousand cannibal goose-steppers, a corpse-like Colonel, and a band of desperate young people armed with sledgehammers and chainsaws.


Indeed, the gore factor here keeps Dead Snow from being a complete snore. This is not to say that Wirkola couldn’t get a way with more subtle scares. The gorgeous and desolate Norwegian backdrop could fuel an infinite amount of isolated dread. But without the blood and guts, without the constant chaos of machinery mangling flesh, we’d wind up with a homage that’s only half-baked. It’s clear that filmmakers like George Romero, Sam Raimi, Tobe Hopper, and more recently, Zack Snyder, have influenced the world of terror, and within said status is both good and bad elements. Sadly. Wirkola works within a few of those flawed arenas, assuming we will care about characters barely explained, or sit back happily while the whole “how and why” of the Third Reich rippers is left unexplained. Indeed, the most unsatisfying part of Dead Snow is that lack of motive. A desire for Nazi gold is one thing (just ask Uwe Boll). Making it the reason that monsters go nutzoid is another oddball aspect completely.


Of course, there is always cultural subtext, and Dead Snow could be seen as a massive mea culpa for whatever part Scandinavia and Norway specifically played in Hitler’s rise to power. At first, the students want to share in the ill gotten gains of six decades before. But when cooler heads prevail, they are prepared to defend the history contained in the box of ancient treasure. By the time they are down to a couple of desperate members, however, it’s time to turn from aggressor to accomplice. It’s amazing how spineless someone with a power tool can be when confronted with five times as many targets to contemplate. Similarly, our so-called heroes are more than happy to sacrifice others in the name of their own survival. While not pertinent to an American viewer, such an illustration of Norwegian chutzpah (or lack thereof) must give Wirkola’s countrymen fits.


Which leads us back to the bile. There are kills in Dead Snow that will surely redefine what a gorehound will find offensive. One head wound in particular is so unreal it will literally shock any seasoned splatter-phile. There are also moments of true “intestinal” fortitude, though one assumes that guts make for lousy life saving devices in reality. Toward the end, when the remaining kids are carving away with wild abandon, we wonder how Wirkola will top himself. Oddly, it doesn’t come with a splash of vein gravy or a dozen decapitated heads. Instead, it’s with a potent reveal, a last gasp illustration of just what our humans are up against. It’s incredibly potent, and promises something that, sadly, Dead Snow is not quite ready to revel in. Indeed, beyond the sluice-laden special effects and the constant foot races, this film doesn’t delve into areas that deep.


Still, for someone whose knowledge of horror extends from the Universal classics up and through Hammer, the drive-in, ‘80s direct-to-video, and recent Asian and torture porn, Dead Snow will seem like a lilting love letter to everything that’s groovy and gross. Wirkola may still be borrowing too openly from the masters of the past (including eccentric nods to such non-fright faithful as Tarantino and Ritchie), but he has a way with composition and framing that offers glimpses into his own possible future. And as with many foreign versions of familiar frights, the cultural differences and debts are incredibly fun to watch. As a rule, one should always be wary of anyone promising infant werewolves, flesh-eating whores, or demonic break dancers. Sometimes, assurances don’t meet expectations. Luckily, Dead Snow manages to meet most of our horror hopes. 


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