Dead of the World Unite

I would love nothing more than to watch a film that was dedicated to the resurrection of Soviet forces to stomp some Nazi zombies but this just wasn’t entirely the case with Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead. Sure it is true the Soviet comrades are raised from their frosty graves, but to be honest they don’t get much screen time and they only kick ass for a few minutes. This film is much more about Martin and his gaggle of American sibling sidekicks. Yes DS2 was incredibly entertaining — I laughed out loud, and raucously so, a number of times, but it was not exactly what I was expecting considering the caliber that the first film hit viewers with.

This sequel was much more about playing with the zombie genre. And rightfully so! Director, Tommy Wirkola, clearly understood that if you can’t top the first film you should always err on the side of humor, particularly with a genre like horror. This film had a lot going for it. It had gore; it had a bizarre nerdy team of Americans that the film affectionately jabs at. And it has an audience who is already on the right side of seeing Nazi zombies stomped into the dustbin of horror-comedy. This proved a good combination and it certainly deserves a watch this Halloween season.

The film picks up where the first installment left off, as our main protagonist Martin is picking up the cursed coin that has fallen underneath his car seat. Martin has just chain-sawed off his arm, murdered his girlfriend accidentally with an ax and just barely escaped Colonel Herzog and his Nazi zombie men. And then that coin is found, the slow camera pans up, the shaking turn to the left, and then the crushing sound of the glass of the car window breaking and the film ends. We pick up from that moment. Right off the bat there are cringe worthy scenes including one of a trucker who tries to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to Colonel Herzog the living dead Nazi. There’s tongue and everything. Every single second that truck driver tries to revive Colonel Herzog you are squirming in your seat. The film is filled with moments like that these little vignettes of humor and gore; moments that allow the audience a lot of release and comic relief.  But don’t worry I won’t go over any more of them! I don’t want to ruin too much of this for you because some of them are genuinely classic.

I want to take some time to parse through a few representations within the film, specifically gender, sexuality, and nationality. This little zombie movie surprisingly takes up quite a few important questions and also the representations of the characters for which these questions play out are quite engaging. Engaging even in their one-dimensional horror form. But that’s what horror is, isn’t it? Horror can do these things. Horror can toy with the status quo, can explore politics, and can play with gender and sexuality. It can allow the audience to let its guard down and also vent about its frustrations with the everyday world.

As a feminist and a female identifying person, while watching this film I was amazed not to be that upset at all by the gender portrayals. I have to say doesn’t happen very often, usually I watch a film in a constant state of irritation. In fact, these queer and female identifying people were actually likeable characters who were intrinsic to saving the day. There were no easy nude scenes, no scared blondes running up the stairs when they should be running out of front doors; just brave, nerdy Star Wars quoting women and a queer emo-kid museum worker.

I was also surprised that the film avoided a hyper sexualization that all too often sequels exploit to rein in an audience. In fact, it is not until the closing scenes (and no, I won’t ruin that charming, albeit gut-churning ending) that things get steamy.

The question of national identity, although a current throughout the entire film, does not come across as a central question. Rather it comes across as camp, two historic forces duking-it-out, decrepit and rotting. Though we obviously are rooting for our zombie soviet comrades, the real heroes end up being the native Norwegians and the goofy Americans. This is what threw me off the most about the film- going into this viewing I was beyond excited about the prospects of watching soviet on Nazi carnage. I was looking forward to more charming nods of revolutionary ephemera (I still highlight the hammer and sickle reference of the first film), sarcastic political jokes or jabs, something more politically sophisticated and unapologetically funny — funny is what I got, but sophisticated? Not so much.

Absolutely add this film to your watch list for this season if you can stomach entrails, a bizarre soundtrack, and subtitles. It’s a short, punchy, fun-filled gore fest even if the premise is a little misleading.

Brit Schulte is a burlesque and vaudeville performer, and a Masters candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She is a founding editor of Red Wedge and blogs for the site at The Hour Glass. She can be reached through Twitter.