Sundance 2009: 'Dead Snow' and 'Treevenge'
When we were preparing for Sundance, Greg and Dan and I all picked certain things we wanted to see and review, and I called the midnight section of the festival for myself. I love the potential collision of exploitation and arthouse at festivals like this or Toronto, and I'm always curious to see what they call a midnight movie. The best way to judge the effectiveness of the programming is, of course, to actually see it at one of the midnight public screenings at the Egyptian, which is where I caught the double-feature of "Treevenge" and "Dead Snow." I'm glad I did, even if it's not entirely equal footing for the two films.
I didn't realize who the filmmakers responsible were when "Treevenge" started, but after seeing it, I wasn't shocked to learn that it came from the same creative team as the awesome award-winning fake trailer for "Hobo With a Shotgun." You know the one.
You don't? Oh, we must remedy that. Right now.
Two minutes of sheer awesome, right? Well, "Treevenge" runs longer, but it's just as gleefully deranged, just as giddy on its own mayhem. The new short tells the story of the Christmas season from the point of view of the Christmas trees. It starts funny, but after about seven or eight minutes of this awful foliage holocaust, it actually starts to become disturbing. I tried to imagine the exact same film with people instead of trees, and it was too ugly to consider. Once the actual "treevenge" part of the film kicks in, complete with crazy over-the-top gore, it gets hilarious again. Jason Eisener, along with producer Rob Cotterill and co-writer John Davies and their entire cast and crew all deserve credit for making an absolutely ridiculous concept into something really special.
On the other hand, "Dead Snow" takes a really great monster to build a film around -- Nazi zombies -- and somehow adds up to total mediocrity in execution. What a disappointment this one is. Director Tommy Wirkola finds his footing in the last forty minutes or so, when he pumps about 20 million gallons of the red stuff onto the white, white backdrop of a Norweigian snowbound countryside. But until then, there's a whooooole lot of overly familiar genre wank. Do we really need the eight millionth movie where one of the characters is a horror movie addict who spends the whole film talking about the rules of the genre? Or the creepy old "Scooby-Doo" character who stops by to warn the kids about the danger they're in? Or Sam Raimi/"Evil Dead 2" camera moves complete with idential sound effects? Or the rustic old cabin in the middle of nowhere? There's so much about "Dead Snow" that is just plain tired that even when it does do something right, I found myself numb to it, worn out from the wait. In a world where "Shaun Of The Dead" and "Brain Dead" exist, you've got to aim high with any zombie horror comedy, and "Dead Snow," despite obvious ambitions just plain falls flat. If you can't make Nazi zombies into a credible force of evil, horror may not be your bag.