We have now reached the year where I personally began to attend Toronto After Dark, which was the first of two years where the festival moved from October to August. I still remember heading out to the Bloor Cinema on a very stormy night for my only chance to see the horror anthology Trick 'r Treat on the big screen. Another highlight from this fourth year of the festival was the blaxploitation action-comedy Black Dynamite. Then there was Tommy Wirkola's Nazi zombie film Dead Snow, which won the audience award that year and will be the film that I am revisiting today.
I personally did not see Dead Snow until I watched it last year in preparation for the sequel Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead, which played at last year's Toronto After Dark. The thing that really occurred to me on both my first viewing of the film and last night's rewatch is that Dead Snow somewhat short sells the whole Nazi zombie premise. For at least two thirds of the film, Dead Snow is a typical "Cabin in the Woods" horror film, with there only being brief glimpses of the zombies, as they dispatch a group of vacationing friends one by one.
It is pretty apparent that the zombies in Dead Snow didn't really have to be Nazi's, even though there was a fun novelty to it. Plus, these zombies weren't the typical mindless undead and the lead zombie Herzog is a cold and calculating antagonist. I can still see why Dead Snow won the audience award at Toronto After Dark, since the film goes completely insane with bloody violence in the final act.
Tommy Wirkola tried his hand at American filmmaking with 2013's Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, before returning last year with Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. I do have to say that I like the sequel way better than the original, because it has a lot more fun with the Nazi zombie premise, which the film being much more of an action-comedy, instead of a darkly humorous horror film.
It was interesting rewatching Dead Snow with the knowledge that the character of Martin (Vegar Hoel) is the sole survivor of the film, who returns for the sequel. It can be argued that Dead Snow doesn't really have a central protagonist, with all these friends being equally in peril. However, there is quite a bit of focus on Martin and his girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), with it being absolutely heartbreaking when Martin accidentally kills Hanna with an axe. Martin is definitely a lot more of a nerdy, for lack of a better term, character in the original, with his character being much more of a badass in the sequel.
In summary, Dead Snow is a fine enough zombie film, even though its merely just a prologue for the better film to come.