Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead Sequel Gold

Film poster for Dead Snow 2.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead is the long awaited sequel to the 2009 Norwegian comedy horror film written and directed by Tommy Wirkola (Stig Frode co-wrote both films and this gold plated sequel also had Vegar Hoel working on the script.) This film follows the adventures of Martin (played again by Vegar Hoel) who was the unlikely survivor from the Dead Snow.

The first movie was about a group of friends who travel to the mountains for a skiing holiday and while they are staying in their cabin find Nazi gold hidden in a box under the floor. The second that any of the treasure leaves the box, a horde of zombie Nazis come out of the snow and begin killing off the holiday makers one-by-one.

For those who have not seen the first film, this is all covered in a short recap narrated by Martin himself. This time, the survivor is wanted by the police after they found all his dead friends up in the mountains. His fiancee, Hanna; who he accidentally killed with an ax, still has the weapon lodged in her throat, “with your fingerprints all over it,” the police detective smugly informs Martin.

On top of his immediate problems of being charged with multiple murders, he has had Herzog’s arm attached to his body, Herzog was the Nazi commander who led the undead soldiers. While recuperating in the hospital, handcuffed to his bed, Martin meets a young boy who is in contact with the US Zombie Squad. He talks the lad into releasing him only to kill the youngster with his zombie arm.

After trying, in a spectacular failure which results in obliterating any chance the boy had of recovering, to revive his new friend, Martin then talks to the zombie squad and they promise to arrive in Norway and save the day. The rest of the film deals with this disparate group trying to kill off the Nazi zombies as well as resurrecting a group of Russian zombies that Herzog had killed during the war to help them win this zombie battle.

At 100 minutes the sequel is that little bit longer than the first one. Overall, however, this does not matter in the least as the gags, and the gore, keep coming with machine gun rapidity that leaves the viewer gasping. The film’s humor runs from parody to full-on slapstick. Perhaps the only complaint was the decision to make the dialogue English versus Norwegian with subtitles.

It is surprising to hear Martin speaking English and while there are a few moment of confusion once the US Zombie Squad are introduced it all becomes clear why they dropped their native language and the subtitles. In all honesty, the film still works brilliantly and is funny regardless of the dialogue change.

Comparing the two films, it is obvious that the budget for number two is much bigger than the first one. The scope of the movie is much larger, no longer restricted to the snowy mountain setting from number one, this sequel roams across the Norwegian landscape through a village or two and back into those mountains.

In Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead, there are zombie fighting nerds, or geeks, a tank, the ability to touch dead people and turn them into zombies, or “recruiting” as Martin puts it at one point, and some local police who are very funny indeed.

Without resorting to any spoilers, there also seems to be a good chance for a Dead Snow 3 to become a reality. For those who loved the first two, this could be good news if they do not mess things up.

This is a real 5 out of 5 star film despite the odd things that make no sense, such as a museum tank having life rounds in it. Available on iTunes to stream and available on DVD.

7 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Nemesis by Jo Nesbo: Multiple Murder…

Jo Nesbo’s Nemesis is a compulsive read. Like his other Harry Hole books it weaves a web of lies, subterfuge and murder. In this book, several murders and Harry is still after the killer who dispatched his old investigative partner Ellen.

The book starts with a bank robbery. We have a front row seat for the robbery itself and its murderous conclusion. Harry is attached to the robbery branch where he meets Beate Lonn a new officer who has a photographic memory for faces.

When the Oslo police department decide that the robbery is really a murder inquiry, Harry teams up with Beate to track the “bank robber” down.

In the meantime Harry’s love interest is in Moscow with her son Oleg fighting for custody with Oleg’s birth father. An old flame of Harry’s has apparently committed suicide and he realises that she was murdered.

Harry links up with Norway’s most prolific bank robber, a gypsy named Raskol, who is in fact the uncle of his old love. While the two men spar for information to both Anna’s (Harry’s past lover and Raskol’s neice) murder and the identity of the bank robber who killed a teller, the body count rises in this neatly constructed story.

Added to this already volatile mix is a colleague of Harry’s who is conspiring to have him framed for the murder of his old lover.

Nemesis is a typical Inspector Harry Hole novel. He is still a victim of his excesses, struggling with his alcoholism and his migraine headaches. He still operates “outside-the-box” while chasing suspects and in this book he has been given free rein to act as he sees fit.

As with all of Nesbo’s books, he paints a vivid picture of his characters and we are privy to their foibles and inner demons. His cast is multi-national as usual and we travel with Harry and Beate to another exotic “hot spot” where they are chasing one of the suspects.

Nesbo’s Norway is dark and occupied by a fatal combination of repressed people and their complete opposite, Dionysian villains. But this dark world is not divided equally into a black and white world. The lines between the two types of people converge and blur, so that a lot of grey areas dominate the scenes.

I have mentioned in the past that I am quickly becoming a huge fan of Herr Nesbo’s books. Hopefully publishers will tire of calling him the “next” or “new” Stieg Larrsson – a descriptive title given to any halfway decent writer of Scandinavian origin. I enjoy his books so much that I am in the slow and irritating process of reading all his English translated books.

Slow, because due to financial constraints I have to reserve books at the local library for perusal and irritating because I want to read them all, in order and now.

This is another brilliantly paced and delightfully confusing trail for all armchair detectives to follow. Of course we do not have the burning need to catch the bad guys like Harry Hole does, but, we love the journey of discovery after discovery as each onion-like layer is stripped away. Despite the fact that I am not reading the books in order – something that tinges each story with a sort of sadness for the later Harry – each story stands on its own and doesn’t have to be read in any particular order.

My final verdict is that you should add this to your list of must-reads. A cracking 5 star gem of a book. Thanks Jo Nesbo for entertaining us so thoroughly.

Jo Nesbo

Headhunters by Jo Nesbo: A Killer Interview…

As you can see from the front of the book Headhunters will soon be a “MAJOR MOTION PICTURE” although technically it already is. Released in 2011 from Norway the film opened to positive reviews from both sides of the Atlantic. I am surprised that a Hollywood motion picture studio has not already given Headhunters the “Hollywood remake treatment.” Hollywood was certainly quick enough to re-make The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Headhunters is a relatively short book, almost a novella, at only 265 pages. But in this “short” novel Jo Nesbo manages to pack one hell of a great sucker punch for the reader lucky enough to have stumbled upon his book.

I became a Nesbo fan after coming across a blurb talking about his latest Harry Hole thriller. The name was enough to make me curious and I read the Hole book (sorry about the pun) and fell in love with not only his protagonist, but the writer as well. Although Headhunters does not feature Harry nor is it part of the series, Nesbo displays the same crisp narrative as he does for his serial killer hunter.

Headhunters starts with introducing us to Roger Brown, he’s an exclusive (top of the heap, he says) recruiting specialist aka a headhunter. He’s the best at what he does and is well compensated for his efforts. He uses a 7 point FBI interrogation model as his interview template and he is ruthless in his search for the right candidate.

Brown also suffers from what a friend of mine amusingly refers to as “short man’s attitude.” In other words his lack of height makes him a bit egotistical and aggressive. He also highly values his own capabilities as a recruiter, husband, and thief.

It turns out that Roger has a pretty opulent lifestyle, one which he supplants with art theft from his potential candidates. Using the interview as a distraction and a means to discover what valuable art the interviewees own, he then steals them with the aid of his criminal partner.

One candidate, Clas Greve (a high flyer in the world of GPS manufacture and an ex-mercenary) has a priceless painting by Paul Rueben and here is where the story takes off. It changes from the Napoleon-esque ramblings of egocentric Roger Brown and becomes a fight for survival.

The opening salvo from Nesbo is a scene where Roger is in a crashed car surrounded by dead bodies and Roger is extolling his thoughts on car crashes and the resultant mayhem caused by them. He finishes his thoughts with the explanation that he is a murderer and that his time is short. He then goes on to relay his story to us via the first person narrative which works very well for the book.

Nesbo is brilliant at setting up stories that move quickly and efficiently throughout. His pacing is electric and his characters stand out. He is also not averse to pulling the metaphorical wool over the eyes of his readers. Roger goes through a character arc that explains a lot about who he is and how he became the man he is now and will soon be.

Clas is a truly scary man who, as an ex-mercenary, is more than capable of tracking down and killing his prey. Both Clas and Roger are predators of a dissimilar nature, but as the story evolves they merge to become the same type of killing machine.

My only disappointment with the book was that at 265 pages it was too short a read. Still entertaining and so fast paced it left me breathless, but, damn it could have been a little longer.

I will now have to watch the Norwegian film that was based on the book. Although, according to Wikipedia at any rate, the film does deviate somewhat from the novel. If ever a book had been written that screamed to be made into a film, Headhunters is that book.

I would definitely give the book a full five out of five stars. Full of fascinating characters and, once the books shifts into fifth gear midway, grips you fiercely until the end. Headhunters is just another winning “Scandi-crime” thriller from author Jo Nesbo.

Dead Snow (2009): Norwegian Nazi-Zombie Fun

Cover of "Dead Snow [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Dead Snow [Blu-ray]
Directed by Tommy Wirkola (Kill Buljo: The MovieHansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters [2013]) and co-written with Stig Frode Henriksen (Kill Buljo: The MovieKurt Josef Wagle og legenden om fjordheksa), Dead Snow is a film that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

The film itself could almost be a ‘fan-film’ of all things horror and zombie related. It opened to positive reviews and although there is no reference to the films shooting budget, it earned respectable one million plus dollars in it’s gross profits. Although the film does feel a little like an updated version of the old ‘Andy Hardy’ films and their, “Hey kids, lets put on a show in the barn!” , it doesn’t suffer from it. It actually causes the film and it’s paper thin plot that bit more appealing.

The film opens with a young lady being pursued though deep snow in the Nordic mountains by a Nazi-zombie. She is cornered, killed and eaten by a group of Nazi-zombies.

We then meet a group of seven students who are on holiday in the Norwegian mountains. They are on a skiing trip and on the way to a friends cabin in the mountains. The students are all typical ‘film’ students, in other words they all focus on sex, drugs and rock and roll.

The students make their way to the cabin and their first night there they encounter a ‘hiker’ Turgåer (Bjørn Sundquist) who tells the students about an old Norwegian curse that affected the Nazi’s who occupied Norway during the second world war. Greedy Nazi’s who searched for a rumoured pile of hidden riches were cursed. When the Nazi’s died in their greedy quest, they were  forced to forever roam the mountains as the undead who would be brought back to ‘life’ by the allure of riches.

The students, Martin (Vegar Hoel), Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), Vegard (Lasse Valdal), Hanna (Charlotte Frogner), Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten), Erland (Jeppe Laursen) and Chris (Jenny Skavlan) have been invited by Vegard’s girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp) to stay at her cabin. Unfortunately, the young lady we saw at the beginning of the film being snacked on by zombies was Sara and she won’t be showing up.

The group are confused and concerned by Sara’s absence and they discuss where she might be and whether they should be searching for her. They search the cabin to see if they can find a clue about where Sara might have gone.

This film is a combination of a comedy of errors and a possible homage to the Evil Dead films. The students themselves are dispatched quite messily (and truth be told, comically)  by random Nazi-zombies and at one point two of the survivors arm themselves with assorted power tools.

The group at different times in the film discuss popular myths and legends about zombies in films and other cultural elements. For the most part they try a lot of the more culturally prevalent means of dispatching  zombies. Hilariously they either succeed or fail and it is their realization of the danger of their predicament that amuses the most. By the time they begin to take things seriously, it is for most of them, too late.

The film makers were not afraid to milk the most laughs possible out of any given scene. At one point in the film, one of the students, Vergard, is fighting with a zombie while they both hang on the entrails of another zombie, dangling from a cliff face.

The zombies, because of the curse, are attracted by riches of any kind. When the students discover a box full of ‘treasure’ in the basement of the cabin, this lures the zombies to attack and kill the cabins inhabitants.

I laughed as much as I groaned at some of the more apparent ‘clichés’ that the film-makers included in the film’s set pieces.

But I loved the film and it’s ‘cliff-hanger’ ending. Fan’s of horror films and zombie films should enjoy this film, if they realise that it’s not taking itself seriously at all. Watch it with the idea that it is a combination of satire and spoof and you’ll get a kick out of it.

Dead Snow
Dead Snow (Photo credit: DONOSTIA KULTURA)

Trollhunter (2010): Trolls aren’t Just on the Internet

Written and directed by André Øvredal,  Troll Hunter is a cracking good film and it is André Øvredal’s second feature length film. Made on a budget of 3.5 million dollars, it made just over that on it’s theatrical release. The film is a brilliant blend of Norwegian fairy tales and social satire. Considering the small budget the computer generated effects are very good and since they are based on classical paintings of Norwegian trolls the trolls appear both slightly comic and threatening.

The cast of the film is made up of ‘unknown’ actors and well known Norwegian comedians. Troll Hunter did very well when it opened in Norway and has generated enough interest and publicity that on the day it opened in the US it was announced that director Chris Columbus‘s company, 1492, and CJ Entertainment & Media had obtained rights to do an American re-make of the film.

The film opens with a black screen and the following words: On October 13, 2008 Filmdameratene AS received an anonymous package with two hard disks containing 283 minutes of filmed material. This film is a rough-cut version of that material. Everything is shown in chronological order and no images have been manipulated.

This written message goes on to say the despite investigative attempts, the film cannot be verified as being authentic or a practical joke.

We are then introduced to a three person team of college students who are filming a documentary about bear hunting in Norway. While interviewing a group of licensed bear hunters they hear about a man that the licensed hunters believe is a poacher. With their interest piqued the students track down and attempt to interview the suspected poacher.

The ‘poacher’ rebuffs their interview offer and leaves. Undaunted the team follow him until they finally catch up to him and his intended prey. Surprisingly he is not hunting bears at all. He is hunting trolls. His name is Hans (Otto Jespersen) and he works for the TSS (Troll Security Service).

The students, Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud), Johanna (Johanna Mørck) and Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) decide to stick with Hans and film him killing a real live troll. The first night that they find Hans a troll demolishes their car and they have to ride out of the wilderness with him. They do this and decide to make their entire documentary about troll hunting.

Hans explains about trolls and their territories and what his job entails. He is the only troll hunter in Norway and it is a crappy job according to him. He doesn’t get a bonus for working at night or for unsocial hours and he doesn’t like how the government runs the job.  

After Hans has killed the first troll, his government contact tells him that something must be wrong with the trolls and that Hans needs to get a blood sample for analysis. This turns out to be a bit difficult as trolls either turn to stone or explode when they die.  Following a trail and reading the newspapers, Hans locates another troll.

He leaves some goats on a bridge as bait and dons his troll suit, a metal helmet and armour that protect the rest of his body. When he kills this troll it explodes and  Hans gets his blood sample.

Later the little group find out that the troll has rabies, which is bad news for Thomas as he was injured by the first troll they came in contact with. Things get worse for the troll hunters when their camera man gets eaten by a ‘mountain king troll.’ Thomas sends for a replacement camera operator and they continue their hunt.

The film is brilliantly made. Comparisons have been made with The Blair Witch Project and in my opinion the film works better than Blair Witch by a mile. It really looks like a documentary. The camera work is superb, the times when the camera operator would move the camera or put it down looks real and more importantly feels real.

The subject matter is of course meant to be a mixture of comical and frightening and it is. In fact the only problem I had with the film was that the actor who played Thomas looked the spitting image of Declan Donnelly of Ant and Dec two English television presenters. It really did put me ‘out of the moment’ several times during the film.

The amount of beautiful scenery that the film takes in while the troll hunters are tracking their prey is breath taking. If nothing else the film could be used to increase tourist traffic to Norway. The travel scenes themselves are admittedly a little too long, but they serve to show how isolated the little group of hunters are.

Hans Troll Hunter

The acting is just the right amount of stern and ultra serious from Hans. And the students act like, well, students. Disbelieving at first, amused, then frightened and at the end determined to finish their documentary.

Troll Hunter is a cracking film that entertains. It is escapism in the best possible way. Watch it and get ready to be impressed with this little Norwegian film. Oh and keep an eye out for the ‘big budget’ remake by Chris Columbus and crew.

I Knew There Was Something Going On

The BBC News Magazine put this on their page today – A “super breed” of slugs has arrived from Spain, but are they a threat to the UK’s native slugs?

I knew there was something going on here. I’ve noticed that our back garden has been covered in slugs over the last few days. I am not talking about five or ten, I’m talking an amount of slugs that is reaching Biblical proportions.

I mentioned this to my daughter. “You always exaggerate.” This was said while she edited her latest video.  “The amount of slugs and snails goes up when it rains. You know that.” All this was said in a very calm “voice of reason” tone.

“Not like these.” I said. I was standing at my French doors looking into a garden covered with the slimy things. I stopped counting after twenty. And these puppies were huge.

The BBC article said they grew up to ten centimetres. I had to convert this via the net as I grew up in an inches and feet generation. So in real terms of measurement that is about four inches long!

So according to the article these monster Spanish slugs are a threat to the UK slug. My first reaction, well besides the I knew part, was good. Anything that gets rid of any slugs is a good thing surely.

But further reading, combined with my personal sightings of the disgusting creatures, gave me cause for concern. These Spanish ‘stealth’ slugs can out breed the English slug by a lot. The stealth slug reproduce “aggressively” pumping out about four hundred eggs per cycle.

Slugs, the article helpfully informs us, are cannibals. So the rapidly reproducing stealth slug is also introducing diseases and bacteria that is lethal the the UK slug. So not only are the Spanish slugs killing our slugs, but they are feeding on them as well. No wonder their numbers are growing.

The article also helpfully points out that as slugs are cannibalistic as their numbers increase they can cause road traffic accidents. How? Well so many of them cross the road that the surface gets slimy and cars lose traction.

Supposedly Norway has had a similar problem with the Spanish slug as well.

I’ve been looking out at my back garden this morning and checking to see if any more slugs have appeared. They seem to hide when the sun comes out, so it is difficult to see if the population has increased.

I working on a plan of action. I seem to remember my Grandmother telling me that salt gets rid of slugs. I might just give that a go. But I’m a little worried.

The Spanish slugs are so big, I’m afraid they might just be able to defend themselves. Hell, they could even attack when threatened.

If you don’t hear from me again, you’ll know they got me.