Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Zombies, nubile teens get a goofy send-up in "Dead Snow"; the cheese runs thick in "Black Sheep"

Dead Snow (2009)
90 min., rated R.
Grade: B

Aren't you just sick to death of Norwegian Nazi-zombie movies? If so, pretend this is your first splattering and it'll be refreshing. In "Dead Snow," a group of med students vacation in a mountain lodge for a frosty Easter weekend of skiing, beer, sex—and WWII-era Nazi zombies who lurk in the hills to acquire their gold treasure and feed on human-gut tastiness? 

If you can pardon the rather lame title (what about “Red Snow”?), and tongue-in-cheek blood and grue is your bag of course, "Dead Snow" makes for a jolly, brisk, splattery lark. Aside from all the over-the-top entrails and severed limbs, writer-director Tommy Wirkola has a wicked tongue and self-aware cheek of the kids-in-the-woods horror clich├ęs (the movie junkie of the bunch even name drops "The Evil Deads" and "Friday the 13th" and wears a T-shirt of Peter Jackson's "Braindead"/"Dead Alive"). 

Some hilariously silly gross-out gags involve snowmobiling the flesh-eaters to death, the colonel and his gang popping out of the snow, and a great chase opening scene to “In the Hall Of The Mountain King.” In fact, it'd make a wild midnight double-feature with the killer-sheep picture "Black Sheep." 

Black Sheep (2007) 
83 min., rated R.
Grade: B -

"Black Sheep" is a giddily gory, tongue-in-cheek horror spoof about mutant killer sheep running amok in the hills of New Zealand, munching on farmers and business folk. As if there needed to be more story for a movie like this, sheepish Henry Oldfield (Nathan Meister) who's an ovinophobic (the irrational fear of sheep, bah) arrives on his family's farm to sell his share to his older brother (Peter Feeney), who has been experimenting on the sheep. And on the same day, a pair of bumbling environmental activists free a sheep from the brother's lab which turns into a rampaging beast. 

The entire production feels like a 30-minute short that has been expanded beyond its breaking point, even at a brisk, faultlessly photographed 83 minutes. Played straight for "Monty Python"/Killer Rabbit-esque laughs, with a highly amusing shot of a herd of killer sheep massing on down a hilltop about to strike and some campy gags, especially its wildly gory centerpiece in which suit-and-tie business people are bitten of their intestines. 

In a morbid sense of wishful thinking, you wouldn't have minded seeing the sheep munch on the throats of the makers of the pitiful Chris Farley-David Spade '90s farce of the same name. Jonathan King's "Black Sheep" is the kind of bloody, cheery B-movie that would make Peter Jackson blush (very evocative of that fellow Kiwi mainstay's outrageous "Dead Alive"). 

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