Dead Snow

What could be scarier than Nazis? How about undead Nazis who want to eat you? Or film critics who ignore genre conventions?

Dead Snow

Director: Tommy Wirkola
Release Date: 2010-02-23

An alleged connection between Nazis and the occult has a tenuous historical basis but a strong pop culture pedigree. The Indiana Jones films, the Hellboy universe and the Wolfenstein video games all assume the Nazis dabbled with dark supernatural forces and looked for arcane relics to further their evil designs.

This odd little rivulet in pop culture probably has a number of sources, ranging from Hitler’s very real fascination with the nordic mythos to the fact that, in movies, comics and videogames, its always acceptable to kill hordes and hordes and I mean just hordes of two groups: Nazis and Zombies. No questions asked. Perhaps only orcs have proven more expendable, and have a higher body count, in the world of the pop culture fantastic.

Director Tommy Wirkola plays on this scary Nazi theme with his cheerfully macabre Dead Snow. A group of young, mostly hot Norwegians are isolated in a cabin when a bit of greed, or really just curiosity, awakens an einsatzgruppen of undead zombies. The Nazi revenants proceed to dine on our heroes, exuding several kinds of dread from their black SS uniforms. A 2009 Sundance selection, the film has generally been dismissed out of hand by critics as one-dimensional and dependent on fairly pedestrian bloody effects.

Mostly they are right. This is a forgettable film with no clear narrative direction. Not only does it have no character development, it barely has characters. The six medical students who get away to the Norwegian alps for booze, sex and an uncomfortable game of Twister are indistinguishable from one another with the exception of the “movie nerd” whose function is to make connections to classic genre moments from Night of the Living Dead and Evil Dead.

But I come to praise Dead Snow and not to chop it up with a blood-drenched chainsaw and bury it. Not unlike Evil Dead (which it slavishingly worships at points) the emphasis here is not on explanation or exposition. Thank God, instead this is a film about chopping up zombies in hilarious and disturbing and hilariously disturbing ways. It only slows down the carnage to remind us “Oh shit, not only are these zombies these are NAZI zombies!”

Filmmakers use the zombie movie to mangle the human body in the most shocking and outrageous ways possible. They purposefully call into question the good taste of the audience while tweaking its anxieties about the safety and stability of the body.

Several critics of Dead Snow, not bothering to think about the kind of movie they are hating, have labeled this violence “unwatchable”. This precisely misses the point of the entire exercise.

Of course it’s so disturbing that it’s unwatchable. This increases the frisson of watching it. It provokes laughter because we know the filmmaker is having a joke on us, testing our limits and making us test it, too. Are we really going to laugh at the film’s central visual joke involving a large intestine? We do and then laugh at ourselves for laughing. So, back off critics, Wirkola had no intention of making Bicycle Thieves.

Along with some good undead fun, Dead Snow includes some special features that are a treat for anyone who cares about independent film. The second disc gives us a truly oddball “making of” featurette with Tommy Wirkola describing the film as a “feel good, Nazi zombie horror thing” and commenting that he got the cheapest actors available since that seemed to suit the quality of the film. He’s obviously not kidding, at least on some level, and the featurette as a whole gives the sense of a cast and crew having a good time making a not very good and a not very important movie.

This is not at all off-putting given that director commentaries and featurettes for some of the silliest, low budget gorefests around make it sound like we are talking about 400 Blows. Wirkola doesn’t think he’s Truffaut, hell he doesn’t even think he’s Sam Raimi, and I think this approach to the material worked to make the film much more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise.

The extras include a series of features that show all the exigencies of trying to make a movie and promote it without a big studio and instant distributors. These video diaries show us a bad day on the set, the winter weather grounding everything to a halt. We also see an interview with one of the film’s production assistant’s, a friend of Wirkola’s who describes himself as an unemployed archaeologist. We also watch some pretty endearing footage of director and cast braving the gargantuan flight from Norway to Los Angeles and then on to Utah to make the Sundance festival. Flight delays and the uncertainty of audience reception give us a funny and seemingly very real picture of what it means to be a guerilla filmmaker.

This is highly recommended for those with a special interest in Nazi Zombies or anyone up for a gruesome unpretentious campfest.


To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

The World of Captain Beefheart: An Interview with Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx

Gary Lucas and Nona Hendryx (photo © Michael DelSol courtesy of Howlin' Wuelf Media)

Guitarist and band leader Gary Lucas and veteran vocalist Nona Hendryx pay tribute to one of rock's originals in this interview with PopMatters.

From the opening bars of "Suction Prints", we knew we had entered The World of Captain Beefheart and that was exactly where we wanted to be. There it was, that unmistakable fast 'n bulbous sound, the sudden shifts of meter and tempo, the slithery and stinging slide guitar in tandem with propulsive bass, the polyrhythmic drumming giving the music a swing unlike any other rock band.

Keep reading... Show less

From Haircut 100 to his own modern pop stylings, Nick Heyward is loving this new phase of his career, experimenting with genre with the giddy glee of a true pop music nerd.

In 1982, Nick Heyward was a major star in the UK.

As the leader of pop sensations Haircut 100, he found himself loved by every teenage girl in the land. It's easy to see why, as Haircut 100 were a group of chaps so wholesome, they could have stepped from the pages of Lisa Simpson's "Non-Threatening Boys" magazine. They resembled a Benetton knitwear advert and played a type of quirky, pop-funk that propelled them into every transistor radio in Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.