Nazi Zombies. Those were the two words that sold me on watching Tommy Wirkola's 2009 breakthrough bit of carnage Dead Snow. In 2013, he unleashed his dream project, an R-rated and gore-dripping fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. (An undervalued gem in my opinion.) Between these two, you might have gathered that the Norwegian writer-director doesn't concern himself with making good movies. His mission is to make movies that are unrepentantly mad and wildly entertaining. On these counts, Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is his best yet.
Fear not if you somehow missed the Norwegian horror-comedy Dead Snow. Its sequel begins with a helpful primer that plays out like an old-school slasher trailer. A band of friends went to an isolated cabin for a weekend away, but their fun turned to fear when an accident unearths a troop of Nazi zombies hell-bent on slaughter. After a nightmarish night, the only one to survive is Martin (Vegar Hoel). Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead picks up exactly where the last film left off, with Martin fighting off the Nazi zombie leader Colonel Herzog (Ørjan Gamst).
While Martin manages to escape, his battle with these undead killers is far from over. A mistake at the hospital has landed him with Herzog's arm in place of his own. Its unholy powers make Martin a monster. Desperate for help, he calls the Zombie Squad, a trio of American nerds eager to do real-live battle with these mythic creatures. That battle will come. And it will be completely insane.
Like any worthwhile sequel, Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead is quick to world build. Its villains are given a goal beyond their initial treasure hunt, one that drives them down from the mountains to wreak havoc on the charming town below. A whole new world of possibilities for gallows humor is exposed. This sick flick relishes in it, offering violence that is as outrageous as it is hysterical. Plus, Colonel Herzog's powers have evolved to include the ability to raise new recruits, making for a motley yet intimidating army of the undead.
With Herzog's arm, Martin's own powers have grown. And some of the movie's best comedic bits involve this zombie appendage causing chaos and death while an alarmed Martin looks on in helpless horror. As Martin, Vegar Hoel proves a stellar leading man whether delivering blows, panicked expressions, or slapstick. While the film loops in Martin Starr and two pretty nerd girls (Jocelyn DeBoer and Ingrid Haas) for American appeal, Hoel is what makes this movie work. He manages the outlandish fight scenes with aplomb and a deft comedic timing.
Essentially, Hoel is Norway's answer to Jason Statham. I want to see lots more of him, especially after watching Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead's completely mental finale that might well be the most demented the zombie genre has to offer. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Horror fans will cheer the inventive new gags and gore that Wirkola has unleashed. The effects--from the marring makeup to the blood splatter and explosions--look great and gross. They are made all the more impactful with the ghoulish glee Wirkola infuses in the film. Imagine if Shaun of the Dead were 10 time more irreverent and 20 times more violent, and you'll have some idea how Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead satisfies. While there's some meta commentary about the genre of zombie movies, this horror-comedy never bothers to get too clever, focusing mostly on its characters' wild journey and any opportunity to wring a shriek from its audience, be it one of terror or devilish delight.
Though deliciously depraved, it's not flawless. A subplot about a bumbling sheriff repeatedly kills momentum, doling out lame jokes that don't land. And a Star Wars fanatic within the Zombie Squad seems a lazy stereotype, crudely tacked on to earn extra nerd buzz. But by and large, this zombie comedy is rich with manic menace and horror-laced humor that make it a sensational pick for a midnight movie viewing.
All in all, Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead delivers more gore, action, firepower, and laughs than the first film. It's brilliantly bonkers and will have audiences howling with laughter from its first zombie battle to its fucked up and fun final showdown.