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Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (2014)
Well Go USA
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/9/2014
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/24/2014
There's an unwritten rule when it comes to movie sequels -- If you can't make it better, make it bigger. Just look at movies like Dawn of the Dead, The Empire Strikes Back, and The Hangover Part II. All of these movies offer more expansive locations, bigger casts, and more impressive special effects. This approach seems to be saying that there's no way to capture the magic of the first film, so simply dazzle the audience or beat them into submission. Of course, some of these "bigger" sequels are still good movies, but one does miss the humble beginnings. The interesting thing to note here is that this practice doesn't appear to be exclusive to Hollywood as proven by the Norwegian entry Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead.
As you'll remember,Dead Snow saw a group of friends take a vacation to the snowy mountains, where they discovered a cache of Nazi gold in their cabin. This brought forth a group of murderous zombie Nazis who killed the group one-by-one until only Martin (Vegar Hoel) was left (although he did have to cut off his own arm). Dead Snow 2 picks up at the end of that film, were Martin is able to get away by tearing the arm off of Herzog (Orjan Gamst), the Nazi leader. Martin awakens in the hospital to find that the doctors have mistaken Herzog's arm for his own, and attached it to his body. As if this wasn't shocking enough, Martin can't control the arm's murderous intentions and he's soon wreaking havoc. He is able to pause long enough to call the Zombie Squad, a group of Americans -- Daniel (Martin Starr), Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Blake (Ingrid Haas) -- who claim to be experts in fighting the undead. Meanwhile, Herzog is creating more zombies to add to his army. As Martin and the Zombie Squad attempt to formulate their own plan, Herzog's army intends to finish their mission from World War II.
Following the mixed reaction, both critically and box-office-wise, to his Hollywood debutHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Writer/Director Tommy Wirkola returned to his native Norway to make a sequel to his 2009 hit. Wirkola and his Co-Writers Vegar Hoel and Stig Frode Henriksen (who also has a pretty big role in the film) have wisely decided to not tinker too much with the basic premise, as they continue the plight of Martin, who see was down one arm but at least alive at the end of the first movie. To this, they have added two interesting ideas for the sequel. First, we have the concept that Martin now has Herzog's arm stitched to his body. While this is decidedly far-fetched (what doctor wouldn't recognize a zombie arm?), it is definitely a unique idea and a great jumping-off point for the new action. Secondly, we have the Zombie Squad which is, as far as I'm concerned, a reaction to the hordes of silly The Walking Dead fans who have gone a little overboard in embracing zombie culture. Also, it allows Wirkola a chance to jab at Americans for our notion that we can solve any problem around the world. These concepts supply fuel to get the overall movie started.
Unfortunately, it appears that Wirkola and company had nothing else to fill in the blanks and thus, we get an oddly episodic and poorly-paced movie. Dead Snow was certainly a gory movie, but Wirkola clearly wants to top that film with Dead Snow 2, as the gore is much more plentiful and way over-the-top here. (It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to assume that the goal here was best Peter Jackson's Braindead in the gratuitous gore department.) The problem here is that there are scenes which come to a screeching halt in order to show this gore. For some reason, the zombie Nazis like to use melee weapons, so we get scene after scene of them bludgeoning hapless victims. They're evil, we get it. These scenes really slow the movie's momentum. Dead Snow had some humorous moments, but Dead Snow 2 plays like it wants to be a black comedy first and foremost, and it forgoes any attempt to be scary or even creepy.
The above statements may imply that Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is a boring movie. It isn't -- It's a numbing movie. This is a perfect example of what happens when we get too much of a good thing. The movie is so chock full of zombie violence and mayhem that it loses any possible edge. We go from one bloody and mean-spirited scene to another and by the time that the big zombie fight finale rolls around, the audience is so jaded that they don't care. I can understand why Wirkola would want to rebel against the standard horror movie formula of teasing the audience before launching into an action-packed finale, but his approach is akin to the feeling that one gets after a big deal when the waitress asked if anyone "Saved room for dessert" (whatever that means). By that time, we've had enough and we're ready to go home. I know that there are those who find movies like this "fun", but I don't. The idea of a zombie epic where much of the action takes place in broad daylight sounds appealing on paper, but Wirkola's attempt to make the final word in zombie shenanigans has lead to a movie which doesn't know when to stop. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead takes the "bigger not better" idea and runs way too far with it.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead does deserve some gore credit for the gas syphoning scene on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Well Go USA. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 24 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. As noted above, much of the movie takes place during the day and Wirkola has let the bold reds and greens come through. The image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is very good, most notably during the finale, as is the level of detail, which shows us the fine makeup work on the actors. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The surround sound effects work quite well here, most notably during the finale, where we can make out distinct sounds. The subwoofer gets involved as well, as every punch hits home with a thud. The stereo effects act independently from the front channels and show good detail. It should be noted that Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead was shot in both English and Norwegian and that the Norwegian language cut of the film -- Dod Sno 2 -- is included on this Blu-ray Disc.
The Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tommy Wirkola and Writer/Actor Stig Frode Henriksen. "Armen" (14 minutes) is a short film about a man whose arm has a mind of it's own. Other than the arm issue, I'm not sure how this is tied to Dead Snow 2. "VFX Featurette" (2 minutes) shows how various shots are layered together to create a final product. The "Dead Snow Comic Book" serves as a prequel to the movies. The final extra is a TRAILER for the film.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long