Seven medical students are vacationing over Easter weekend in a remote cabin in the mountainous wilderness outside the small town of Øksfjord, Norway. Anxious to do some drinking, screwing and general goofing-off, they pay little attention to the crazy, creepy local man who comes along at night to warn them of the dangers in those place. But they would have done well to heed him and get the hell out of there before they met the army of dark figures hunting them through the woods: zombies! And not just any zombies; Nazi zombies!

Oh, Nazi zombies, could there possibly be a better hook to guarantee a film a certain cult following? And Dead Snow is, to its credit, easily the best Nazi zombie movie I've ever seen. Considering that the worst Nazi zombie movie I've ever seen is also high in the running - top five, at least - for the title of worst movie I've ever seen, period, you might wonder if that's necessarily a very good compliment to Dead Snow. And you'd be right to wonder: it's perfectly entertaining for what it is, and an absolute hoot to see in a room full of people who really had a yearning to see a good zombie picture, but for all that it has more than its share of problems.

Chief among them is the screenplay by Tommy Wirkola (who also directs), and Stig Frode Henriksen (who also acts), two men that obviously love horror movies and prove it by making their film as platonically ideal a horror movie as you could ever hope for, which means that the first thirty minutes of Dead Snow are virtually unendurable. After a brief opening scene in which a young woman (Ane Dahl Torp) is chased and brought down by Something in the night, we cut to two cars full of young people with virtually no distinguishing features, except as noted: Martin (Vegar Hoel) is afraid of blood, Erlend (Jeppe Laursen) is a film geek, Roy (Henriksen) is a horndog, Vegard (Lasse Valdal) has long hair, Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) has dreadlocks and is dating Martin, Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten) is blonde, and Chris (Jenny Skavlan) is the one left over. They're all headed to Vegard's girlfriend's cabin (she's named Sara, and yes! she is the girl we saw die in the beginning), and when they get there, it takes a while for anything to happen, while we get to "know" our "characters".

Basically, Dead Snow, though it is in some ways an exemplary zombie picture, gets things started off by being a truly boring slasher film, and thanks to Erlend's encyclopedic knowledge of genre movies, we have plenty of commentary on just that fact.* Really, these seven charming young folk are just about indistinguishable from the Expendable Meat casts of any given Friday the 13th picture (though because it's subtitled it takes a bit longer to realise that the protagonists are mostly idiots), and until they start dying like flies in outlandishly bloody ways, Dead Snow is only a bit more entertaining than any given '80s slasher film. I say "a bit more," because there is a bit, in fact: Dead Snow, you see, turns out to be not just a gory zombie picture but a gory zombie comedy, and all things considered, it's a pretty successful meld of comedy and horror, not quite as good as Evil Dead II or Dead Alive/Braindead, but in a near enough ballpark that when Dead Snow sees fit to name-check those two movies - thanks, Erlend! - it's not all that embarrassing for anyone involved.

Once the movie gets going, and the Nazi zombies start making their presence felt, Dead Snow opens up like nobody's business, and proves itself just about the best old-school zombie movie in years: since Zach Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake, easily, and I wouldn't be too quick to disagree with anyone arguing that the Norwegian film was better still. This is largely due to the exceptional quality of the make-up involved, both on the zombies' flesh (except for two or three shots, where, in good ol' Zombie Lake, Nazi zombie fashion, you can see healthy pink skin poking out from underneath clothing), and inside the bodies of various characters living and undead, as well as some well- turned directorial choices; the death of the creepy old man is particular well-conceived and beautifully framed.

I'm not going to bother here with the argument that tremendously over-the-top gore like this is or isn't a wicked thing, or a guilty pleasure, or balls-out fun; when I'm watching a movie in which the filmmakers are plainly loving their gore as much as Tommy Wirkola plainly loves gore, that is what I am going to respond to. Dead Snow is a movie made with a childlike glee for the material, which translates into marvelously playful geysers of blood. It's all so much fun, made with a minimal level of contempt for the characters that makes it far unlike so many American horror films, and for this reason the comedy in the film (which is a horror-comedy more than it is a horror film with comedy relief) actually works, better than the comedy works the vast majority of English-language horror. This is the sprightliest movie about mowing down revenants with a chainsaw that you are are ever likely to see.

Now, does the fact that the movie is such a jolly romp, with good jokes, unusually well-executed gore effects, and boundless desire to please, wipe away the fact that also suffers from a paint-by-numbers screenplay and a tedious first act? I genuinely don't know. What I do know for a mortal certainty is that only people who can confidently state that they enjoy watching bloody zombie movies, right now, without any convincing from me, are going to get even the slightest hint of pleasure from Dead Snow. As I am just such a person, I have given this film a guardedly positive review. But please, as in all cases, do let your own conscience be your guide.


Fun fact: I believe this might be the first Norwegian film I've ever seen.