As far as Dead Alive retreads go, the original Dead Snow is hard to beat, if only for its riotous opening scene, set to “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and host to one of the funniest meta-movie gags since David Lynch’s time-lapse fake-out in The Straight Story. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead picks up where its predecessor left off, with lone survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) getting his sawed-off arm inadvertently replaced with the respective (and apparently sentient) limb of one of his Nazi-zombie foes, leading to much gruesomely unwitting bloodletting. Meanwhile, the undead are assembling their forces, roaming the Norwegian countryside with a tank and enlisting fresh minions when an American team of zombie hunters arrives on the scene. The whole premise is self-consciously absurd, and little more than a reason to indulge in as much dismemberment, impalation, hacking, flesh-tearing, and crushing as possible (kids, babies included, are dispatched with a tongue-in-cheek glee), and that’s all well before Russian forces are resurrected to fight the growing threat from the reanimated Third Reich.
As far as modern cine-geek pandering scenarios go, Dead Snow 2 is playful and inventive, as in a resurrected protagonist’s corpse being used as traction for an immobilized vehicle. But it wears out its welcome with its constant audience-ribbing, largely through its Star Wars- and Lord of the Rings-obsessed Yankee characters, whose proclivity toward gushing fan enthusiasm is seemingly meant to flatter the target audience by way of loving mockery. Instead, the effect is similar to that of the half-hearted self-deprecation of Family Guy’s recent Simpsons crossover: Rather than simply committing to its own absurd nastiness, the script’s dispassionate attempts at self-aware reflexivity instead prove condescending to the genre at large (“This is like, a whole new genre, man,” quips a closeted gay character who seems to have stepped out of a musty 1995 sitcom). By formally acknowledging the material’s inherent silliness ad nauseam, the filmmakers have distanced themselves from the spirit of the parody, robbing it of its gruesome pleasures.