No matter how many horror movies you’ve seen, there is always one you missed. To celebrate Halloween this year, Team Unwinnable sought out the monster movies they haven’t seen to find out if they are as good as everyone says. In part one, Don Becker took on John Carpenter’s The Thing. For part two, Dave Trainer looks at [REC], Olivia Davis watches Prince of Darkness and Erik Weinbrecht gawks at Freaks! Gabba Gabba Hey! Now we get undead as Michael Sheridan checks out White Zombie and Chuck Moran plays in the Dead Snow.
When zombie lovers think of the origins of the undead on the big screen, most will point to George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
The brilliantly crafted 1968 black-and-white horror defines the horror sub-genre. Its interpretation of the walking dead has influenced an entire generation. But it wasn’t the first time the undead slowly sauntered across the silver screen.
That honor goes to the 1932 chiller, White Zombie. Starring Bela Lugosi and directed by Victor Halperin, it’s a fright flick set in Haiti and involves voodoo witch-doctory.
It tells the spooky tale of young lovers who – for some unfathomable reason – travel to a creepy Caribbean estate to have their wedding. The owner of the home is infatuated with the girl and willing to do anything to prevent her from marrying her fiance.
He enlists the help of a diabolical witch doctor, played by Lugosi, who has created an army of zombies to do manual labor. The wealthy man then turns the beauty into a mindless member of the living dead, sending her fiance into a drunken stupor of misery. But he soon finds that having the woman of his dreams be a silent, obedient lackey is not as satisfying as he thought.
White Zombie is an entertaining piece of film history. There are some wonderfully framed visuals throughout, with some pleasant musical touches. The opening vocals are actually quite creepy, setting the mood perfectly.
At the same time, you need to forgive the film its failings. The performances are weak and, while there are some nice moments in the score, the orchestral ending is oddly upbeat as zombies are being shot and villains are being dispatched.
What’s fun is the depiction of the zombies themselves.
How the undead ultimately walk the earth is unimportant. Any real explanation always seems kind of silly. Night of the Living Dead doesn’t really get too deep into trying to explain it. AMC’s wonderful The Walking Dead addressed it, yet did so in a way that avoided cause and mostly centered on effect.
White Zombie goes with the practice of voodoo magic. This has been seen a few times, most notably in 1988’s The Serpent and the Rainbow. But it’s limited in scale and the dead don’t rise from the grave in any large numbers.
This 1930s frightener is not groundbreaking, and did not spawn a slew of imitators on the scale of Night of the Living Dead, but is certainly a must-see for anyone who is a lover of zombie movies.
Nazis and zombies have been around for a while, both separately and together. In 1977, the public was exposed to what was probably the first instance of Nazi zombies in film with the movie Shock Waves. For the longest while it was the only Nazi zombie movie. Despite its flaws, it established that somewhere, there were people that wanted to see the Third Reich rise again, even if only in an undead form.
I enjoy the inclusion of Nazis in my fiction. For a while, it seemed like Nazis were showing up everywhere – The Blues Brothers, Raiders of the Lost Ark, History of the World, Fawlty Towers, not to mention the countless appearances in comic books and videogames. The genre of Nazisploitation is certainly nothing new – they will always be a top shelf, first pick for the bad guy role.
As Nazisploitation seems to becoming a distant memory, zombiesplotiation is all the rage. Zombies have become a virus in all forms of media as of late. They show up in all kinds of places – Call of Duty, Red Dead Redemption, Plants vs. Zombies, High School of the Dead, AMC and even pinup calendars with hot girls made to look like hot walking girl dead. Zombies these days are more accepted than Nazis. You certainly don’t see any Nazi walks. Imagine a bunch of people of all ages getting together, dressed like Nazis. There aren’t calendars with cute girls dressed like Nazis.
Now, I bring you the Norwegian film Død snø, or Dead Snow as it is titled in English. Dead Snow is a fun romp with a group of med students who want to go sledding and cross-country skiing. The whole thing sort of comes off like a Juicy Fruit commercial from the ’80s.
In a nutshell, Dead Snow is not a great zombie movie, but an awesome Nazi movie. I couldn’t have even almost cared about the main characters in this movie. There was one character I paid attention to – Erlend. As it turns out, a friend of my wife, anime and occasional hentai voice actor Tom Wayland, did the English overdub. So that was interesting. However, it didn’t make me care any more about his character. His head was later torn apart by a very angry group of undead SS.
This movie at its core was about one thing only: making cool-looking Nazi zombies. The makeup and costumes truly look awesome.
Michael Sheridan’s Twitter account is an elaborate veve for making readers smarter. Follow him @SheridanWriter. When he isn’t looking for pictures of hot girls dressed like Nazis, Chuck can be found @JapanDudeGirl.
Tune in tomorrow for Stu Horvath’s take on Pumpkin Head and Michael Edward’s thoughts on Night of the Demons!