I’m not always worried about the state of the short story. I don’t spend all my time, huddled in my basement, pouring over magazines and websites, trying to ascertain what the field is doing and what my place is in it. Sometimes I spend time with my family (I know, crazy, right?). Sometimes I go to my full-time job.
And sometimes I watch movies.
I’ll admit, this is a departure for me, talking about film instead of the printed word, but bear with me. I’ve mentioned in the past that I am not a good fan when it comes to genre media. But one place where I do dive into genre media is foreign (non-US) films.
I’m far from an expert, and I’m far from someone who’s seen a lot of foreign film. I average about 3-4 movies a month. Not bad, but even limiting my viewing experience to genre foreign films, I suspect it would take me decades to watch everything that’s out there at the rate I’m going.
The other night I queued up Dead Snow, a Norwegian film released last year which came out on DVD in February of 2010. Dead Snow is a horror comedy film featuring young students on a holiday vacation who meet up with zombie Nazis.
Look, we’re not talking Citizen Kane or even The Texas Chainsaw Massacre here. It’s a premise that’s been done to death, pardon the pun. The movie tries to be self-aware and address the fact that what’s happening is the same set-up that’s been happening since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 1974: pretty young things heading to a remote/deserted location that has a history of evil.
That said, the first half of the movie comes across as a pretty serious horror movie with good camera work and solid acting. The script isn’t anything fresh or new, but the pacing for the first half is tight and I have to admit, despite hundreds of horror movies under my belt, it kept me on the edge of my seat.
Then, it just gets zany.
Everything stereotype from horror movies gets trotted out in the second half: a character takes the only vehicle and goes off on his own; the crazy old hiker who stopped by to warn the students is found mangled in his tent; somehow a slobby fat guy gets it on with a hot chick; the two characters who have sex are killed first; the characters split up when one of their members goes missing; and so on.
The silliness and out-right schlockyness, and let’s be fair, the literally gallons of gore, remind me of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste or Braindead/Dead Alive: light on plot, but heavy on over-the-top gory special effects. The students use everything from their fists and feet to machine guns and chainsaws to dispatch the zombie Nazis.
Actually, I don’t believe that they’re actually referred to as zombies. They’re certainly dead yet walking around, i.e., living dead, but the word zombie is not bandied about like recent American movies. Even when characters are bitten by the living dead Nazis, they don’t transform into the living dead, which again, is a staple of the American zombie movie.
If you get queasy at the sight of blood, you should skip the second half of this film. There’s a lot of it. And it gets sprayed everywhere, including on the camera lens. It’s even digitally added to spray more dramatically through the air. I’ll be frank, there are intestines pulled out of abdomens, bodies torn apart, skulls crushed, limbs severed, and faces bitten. While the first half leaves a lot to your imagination, the second half shoves everything in your face.
And I had fun watching it. I mean, come on. When you hear that the movie has zombie Nazis, you can’t expect something serious. It’s not really a movie to watch on your own (like I did) but better suited to watching with a group of friends where you can laugh and cringe together. I’ve spent many a night in my life watching bad/schlocky horror movies with friends, and this movie would be perfect for that.
John Klima is the editor of Electric Velocipede, winner of the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Fanzine. Electric Velocipede is published by Night Shade Books who is having a 50% sale through March 29, 2010 (which a subscription to Electric Velocipede is not eligible in the sale, but any in stock or forthcoming title is).