Saturday, August 28, 2010
The story is your basic horror plot. The film opens with a woman running for her life in a deserted snowy area. It's a Norwegian film, so that could be Norway's largest city for all I know. She is caught, more or less torn apart and we see someone in a German Nazi uniform dragging her body away. Later, we see seven students are on their Easter break, hiking (or in one guy's case, snowmobiling) to a remote mountain cabin. The group seems pretty normal, except one of them seems obsessed with making movie references. Here's a tip for the rest of the cast: if you want him to stop, just leave a severed horse head in his bed --- it's a reference to...um...Ace Ventura 2, I think. That should scare him straight. When the group arrives at the cabin, the snowmobiling dude mentions that they are missing someone; one of their girlfriends was supposed to hike to the cabin on her own, and should have arrived last night. Hmm...I wonder who that could be? Anyway, the the requisite random dude shows up that night to warn the kids to leave the mountain. You see, in the closing days of World War II, some jerk Nazis (as opposed to the big hug Nazis), after years of terrorizing and looting the locals, finally had to face a local uprising; the Nazis ran into the mountains and presumably froze to death --- and these were those very same mountains! Naturally, the teens end up facing undead Nazis by the next day and gore is the result. The Nazis have a reason for attacking people, but it's not explained very well and I stopped caring by the film's end.
This film is an example of that rare hybrid beast, the horror-comedy. I, personally, cannot attest to the quality of the comedy. Very few comedies can transcend a language barrier; unless the script is particularly witty, it's hard to miss the timing of jokes and still find them funny. I can tell that the film is trying to be funny, I just didn't laugh much. The horror aspect does translate, though. This film has some pretty good zombie effects. Bodies get ripped apart, limbs chopped off, and more. The supposedly humorous tone prevents the movie from being scary, though, and I think that was a mistake. If you're going to put that much time and effort into intestines being ripped out of a person on-screen, you might as well just ratchet up the suspense instead of occasionally just being silly.
The change of tone is just one example of this film's inconsistency. At times, the zombies move fast enough to be only a blur on the screen. I'm not talking about the old horror trick of having someone in the foreground quickly move past the camera, either; there are scenes where a soon-to-be victim is standing still, freaking out and then zip! they're gone. I have no problem with super-fast Nazis, but it shouldn't be something that gets turned on and off. Also, these are zombies, but they don't appear to follow all the normal zombie rules. While they do die from head shots, they can also be revived. They will bite you and rip your flesh off the bone, but I don't know if they eat people and their bite is not contagious. I wouldn't mind these inconsistencies if they were explained, but they just show up and are accepted at face value. That just seems like lazy writing to me.
The actors and director are unknown in America. Some appear to have healthy careers in Norway, but it's hard to tell. Norway's not exactly Hollywood's hot cousin, you know. I'm not going to bother to list the actors in this movie because they're not in any American films. It's just as well. The acting was inoffensive, but definitely in the realm of mediocrity. The characters were not very well-developed, so some of the blame lies in the script; this movie doesn't even have the jerky guy. Haven't these people ever seen a horror movie? Tommy Wirkola directed and co-wrote the movie and he clearly has an eye for action and gore. I'm less convinced with his writing (and therefore, humor) touch.
That's not to say that there aren't some pretty good moments, they just aren't big laughs. I thought having the movie buff character wear a Braindead T-shirt was pretty clever. The horror cliches are handled with a knowing wink, so even the "we're in danger...time to split up" idea didn't come off as (unintentionally) idiotic. There's a pretty good moment where one of the characters is bitten by a zombie and makes a creative choice for survival that is actually the highlight of the movie for me. I'd tell you, but it's better watched. These aren't belly laugh scenes, though; I think the film focused far too much on the humor and not enough on the generally entertaining horror parts.