There was a time when when newsreaders would use received pronunciation rather than local dialects. That, when warranted, the BBC would warn viewers of a nervous disposition about the programme which was about to follow. When European cinema stood for sophistication, glamour and occasional black and white existential angst while playing games of chess by the seaside.
Not any more. Not content with the havoc generated in his misguided travelogue Dead Snow, a charming tale of a holiday to the scenic Norwegian town of Øksfjord spoiled by some former German residents unexpectedly resting near the mountain chalet, writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) has gone and done it again, making a sequel which is neither respectful of the dead nor the undead.
Picking up at the last moments of the 2009 original, sole survivor Martin Hykkerud (Vegar Hoel) has been forced to kill his girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) and cut his own arm off after they were both bitten by zombies. The stolen gold returned to the cursed zombies, Martin believes he is safe – until he finds one coin remaining, which Standartenführer Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) will not give up.
Clinging to the side of the car as Martin drives away, the Standartenführer is dragged along until ripped off by a truck coming the other direction, his arm severed in the collision. Driven off the road, exhausted and injured, Martin passes out at the wheel and awakes handcuffed to a hospital bed.
“The only place you’re going is jail,” the attending policeman (Christian Rubeck) tells him. “We found your friends. All of them. Dead.” Still there is good news; the surgeon was able to reattach his arm which was found in the car with him following the accident. Pulling back the covers, Martin sees that the pale limb sewn to his shoulder is that of Standartenführer Herzog, which immediately chooses to resume its violent tendencies…
With none of the angst of The Walking Dead or the po-faced misery of Maggie, from the outset Wirkola knows rampaging Nazi zombies should be fun, and from overzealous CPR cracking the ribs on a child thrown through a window to feasting on the disabled to heavy artillery turned on young mothers pushing prams at no point does tiresome good taste intrude upon proceedings.
Fortunately, Martin has help in the form of the Zombie Squad, Daniel (Freaks and Geeks‘ Martin Starr), Blake (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World‘s Ingrid Haas) and Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer), disappointed that unlike in America they can’t just walk into a gun shop and buy firearms, instead having to stock up on alternatives in a local hardware store.
With manic performances from the cast, many of whom collaborated on the script (credited to Hoel, Gamst, Starr, Haas, DeBoer, Stig Frode Henriksen and Kristoffer Joner who plays Martin and Daniel’s “sidekick” zombie who takes more than his fair share of abuse; like a Weeble he will wobble but he won’t fall down), the film unfolds as a game of outrageous one-upmanship.
With Nazi zombies a busy subgenre within the crowded undead movie ranks with the Outpost films and Frankenstein’s Army in recent years which traces its rotting history back to 1977’s Shock Waves starring Peter Cushing, it’s necessary to bring something new to the table, and fortunately Red vs. Dead does just that.
Standartenführer Herzog may have been able to boost his ranks from a graveyard of fallen German soldiers, but guided by museum attendant Glenn (Henriksen) to where Herzog massacred Russian prisoners of war who were being used as slave labour, Martin shares the power to raise them from the dead. With the forces evenly matched, let the games begin…
Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead is available now on DVD and Blu-ray