“There is…an evil presence,” murmurs the arctic wanderer, barging in on Dead Snow’s ski cabin of hard-partying medical students. (Yes, you’ve seen this one before.) Let’s paraphrase: Woods-dwelling cannibals would be awful enough. But what about zombies? Nazi zombies. Also, they’re searching for a chest of looted gold that happens to be stashed in your basement. They want that, too. So Nazi zombies who feel economically cheated. There.
Norway’s Dead Snow throws it all at you, and as its Third Reich terrors finally claw their way out of the powder—complete with decaying flesh designed by an inspired crew of technicians—you’ll chuckle at the histrionic premise. But the real evil presence haunting this increasingly tiresome zom-com is that of Sam Raimi, who, as bad timing would have it, is enjoying a goo-laden renaissance with Drag Me to Hell. If you remember lantern-jawed Bruce Campbell committing an unspeakably funny bit of self-surgery in Raimi’s Evil Dead II (involving a chain saw and a copy of A Farewell to Arms), perhaps you’ll laugh at the same thing happening in Dead Snow. This time, it’s less witty.
Antic director Tommy Wirkola, while certainly steeped in today’s shock cuts and Shaun of the Dead’s hyperactive montages, brings zero personal signature to the film. Indeed, his debut was a 2007 parody of Kill Bill (itself a heavily indebted bit of homage). How’s that for meta? Maybe it’s silly to criticize a zombie movie for having that not-so-fresh feeling. Then again, you expect more from Nazi flesh-eaters who want their gold back.