In 2009 Nazi zombies resurfaced (because who could keep these genocidal fuckers down?) in Tommy Wirkola’s Dead Snow. It was a straightforward tale of stolen gold and teenage fodder for the jack-booted undead. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead (review) starts seconds after the first ends and explores the eternal question of what would happen if your severed arm was replaced by a Nazi zombie arm? And who would win in the battle against undead Nazis and undead POW Commies? Perhaps they will lead them into the “dead snow” of the Russian winter to settle this “gore score” once for all.
Dread Central met with director Wirkola when he screened his latest film at Austin, Texas’, Fantastic Fest to discuss Nazi ghouls, the horror genre, and a certain resident of the Great Pit of Cartoon.
DREAD: What was your inspiration for the sequel?
Tommy Wirkola: We were happy with the first one, but the last one is the one we really wanted to do—to have fun, to go crazy, to mix action and gore and humor, and be less of a classic horror film and more like a splatter film. And we just had a blast doing the first one so we decided to go and do the sequel.
DREAD: What is your fascination with Nazi zombies?
Tommy Wirkola: I’m a zombie fan of course. We made a film in Norway long ago, a comedy, our first film in Norway, and after that we got the opportunity to do something else. We started discussing what it could be, and I said I wanted to do a zombie film, and then we thought, ‘Well, what could that be?’ Norway had a very strong World War II history. The Germans occupied Norway for four years. Especially in the north, they had tons of equipment and army ships and a lot of stuff. There’s a lot of history. So we decided to use that in regards to our zombie history in the film. Also of course we wanted to do something new with the zombies; if you do a Nazi zombie, you can use their mentality. They’re organized. Smart. They work in groups. And of course, they’re evil—twice as evil, I guess.
DREAD: Were you a fan of Shock Waves growing up?
Tommy Wirkola: Yeah, of course I saw Shock Waves when I was a kid, and it stayed in the back of my mind. I’m a big fan of Peter Cushing, who’s in it. There’s a very tiny batch of films that we’re in with, but Shock Waves was the first one.
DREAD: How did you approach the sequel? It’s much bigger, much funnier.
Tommy Wirkola: Of course we had more money this time. The first one grew over many years. We shot it and it premiered in 2009, and [a following] grew out around the world. We knew if we made a sequel we could use that to get a bigger budget. I did Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters before Dead Snow 2. It was a new experience doing a studio film. The script I wrote for Hansel and Gretal was very crazy and very different from the film that ended up premiering. So through that process, through working through the studio system and testing the film and all that comes with doing a big budget film, I became more motivated to go back and just have fun with my friends again and just do exactly what I wanted. There had been a feeling of being held back – we wrote it really fast, two months. All the motivation came out of wanting to work together again, being with friends, having fun, and feeling we had a fun story to tell.
DREAD: How was the development of the story and the character?
Tommy Wirkola: This time we brought in [Vegar Hoel], the guy who plays the lead [in the first movie], he was brought into the script process. He shares our sense of humor. It became natural to bring him in this time. What he goes through in the last twenty minutes [of the first Dead Snow], we wanted to expand on that in the sequel. Of course I’m a big fan of Evil Dead and Army of Darkness, and we really wanted to go crazy on this one. We didn’t want to repeat ourselves at all. The first thing we decided was to go with the arm, the arm switch, and what kind of fun we could have with that.
I knew we wanted to bring Russians in, have a big Russian-Nazi zombie battle at the end. And we knew we wanted to end up with him finding his love from the first one and see how far we could push it.
DREAD: How was it directing your zombies?
Tommy Wirkola: For a lot of the zombies, especially the Nazi zombies… we shot the movie in Iceland, and Iceland has a huge MMA community. We brought in all these professional fighters. One thing we found on the first one with the extras is that it can be hard to get them to do cool stuff at times. But these guys—these guys were just insane. They’re so buff and crazy! They had a great mentality for fighting. You could get them to do crazy stuff as zombies. Directing zombies is easy. People have this dream of being zombies so when they get them into costume, you get them into makeup— it’s fun.
DREAD: Why do you think the world is obsessed with zombies at the moment?
Tommy Wirkola: It’s always in waves, these things. Vampires will be on top again soon, I’m sure.
DREAD: Generally, sociopolitically, zombies represent the proletariat, and vampires represent the aristocracy. But your Nazi zombies seem to represent the fascist hierarchy.
Tommy Wirkola: I guess you could say that. It’s a great movie monster. As long as you can bring something new to it, they’ll always be there I think. And I think we have brought something new.
DREAD: What was the reaction to using the Nazi trope, especially back in your native Scandinavia?
Tommy Wirkola: In the first one we were worried, especially in the north. We have family who were heavily involved in the war up there. But there has been nothing in Norway, no reactions at all to it, which was surprising. We never heard anything negative—at least not to our face.
DREAD: Are you a huge horror fan?
Tommy Wirkola: I am. I have a ten years older brother, and from my very young age he brought me home films I should never have seen at that age! It got me hooked on blood and guts and horror from a very young age. I love all the Freddy Krueger films, that was my first obsession, Freddy. In the beginning it was all the slashers—Halloween, Friday the 13th. As you get older, you expand to more serious films. I’ve always been, especially from 10 to 18, obsessed with horror.
DREAD: What about Freddy obsessed you so?
Tommy Wirkola: When I was a kid, I just loved the humor in those films and his cheesy one-liners before he killed people. The coolest thing about those films is that he uses dreams. In Dream Warriors—I loved that film—using your skills and your powers in dreams. It’s actually a huge universe if you think about it. In the reboot the dreams are very real-world almost. I always loved 3, 4, 5, even Freddy’s Dead—they went out there in the dreamscape. I always loved that about those films.
DREAD: Are you looking to create more films that have surrealism in them?
Tommy Wirkola: I don’t know. My next film most likely will be a more serious film. It’s a sci-fi. It’s called What Happened to Monday? with Noomi Rapace [Prometheus, the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]. I’m trying to do new things. I really wanted to do Dead Snow 2 after Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Now, I feel like I’ve gotten it out of my system. What Happened to Monday? is a different tone. Noomi plays seven different characters in the film—she plays septuplets. It’s a really cool concept; the script was on the Black List a few years ago.
DREAD: Do you have a favorite monster? Is it zombies? What about werewolves, which are notoriously hard to make work in movies?
Tommy Wirkola: I love werewolves! Dog Soldiers—Neil Marshall, I love his films. What was the last great werewolf film? I recently saw WolfCop, good film. My favorite specific monster is the sarlaac pit in Star Wars.
DREAD: I love him because my favorite is the dianoga trash-compactor monsters, and I think they would hang out together.
Tommy Wirkola: Also, the rancor. One of the spin-off movies should be about the guys who hunt and capture the rancor… I am a huge fan of practical effects. We used more practical effects on this one than on the first one because when we were shooting the first one, it was so cold and the equipment kept freezing up, the mechanisms, everything, and we had to use CGI to cover our asses. All the CGI in this film is there just to polish what we got in-camera.
DREAD: All the blood was “real?”
Tommy Wirkola: Most of it. Sometimes we wanted a little more and added it. It’s always better when you have the real stuff and then later add to it in CGI. We had an effects guy in Iceland who is one of the craziest and funniest guys I’ve ever met, and he loves blood more than me, believe it or not. Every scene I asked him to do, he just went bigger than we originally thought. So it was love at first sight.
Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead Release Details
Dubbed “bigger, brasher, bloodier” by Film Threat’s Brian Tallerico, DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD debuts on DVD and in a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray December 9th from Well Go USA Entertainment.
The sequel to the cult horror comedy from director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) stars Vegar Hoel (Dead Snow, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters), Martin Starr (Knocked Up, Superbad), Jocelyn DeBoer (Stuck Like Chuck), and Ingrid Haas (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World). Picking up immediately where the original left off, the film wastes no time getting right to the gore-filled action, leaving a bloody trail of intestines in its wake. Wirkola comes up with more inventive ways to maim and dismember than anyone ever thought possible. Combining wry humor with horrific worst-case scenarios, this follow-up to the 2009 Midnight classic shocked the weak-of-heart and delighted even the most hard-core fans of the horror genre when it made its debut at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.
The DVD and the Blu-ray Collector’s Edition both feature audio commentary with the director and writer, a VFX featurette, and Dead Snow comic book while the Collector’s Edition exclusively features the international version of the film and the short film ARMEN.
DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD has a runtime of approximately 101 minutes and is rated “R” for strong bloody horror violence and gore throughout and language, including some sexual references.
Martin (Vegar Hoel) hasn’t had the best vacation. He accidentally killed his girlfriend with an axe. He cut his own arm off with a chainsaw. And his friends STILL got devoured by a battalion of Nazi Zombies. This morning he woke up in a hospital bed with a new arm – but it’s a super-powered Zombie arm that wants to kill him and anything else it can reach. Martin’s PISSED. And with the help of his new Zombie Squad pals (Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas), he’s gonna deliver some payback to Colonel Herzog and his precious Nazi gold – by raising an undead army of his own.
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