Zombies may not take over the world, as seen in more apocalypses than even the most dedicated completist can keep up with, but zombie movies might … one minor aspect of the ongoing proliferation of the bastard spawn of Night of the Living Dead is that every territory in the world seems to need its own version of Shaun of the Dead. Even Cuba produced a Juan of the Dead.
Here’s the Austrian version, though with an eye on the international market its foulup who becomes a hero during a zombie eipidemic and wins back the love of an estranged partner is not some local Johan of the Dead but a brash (ie: asshole) American snowboarder. Otherwise, it’s the mix as usual – a few hurried discussions of the difference between fast infected zombies and slow braindead zombies (these are the latter, with snippets of early ‘80s Italian zombie movie music to underline the fact), plentiful inventive use of whatever zombie-killing equipment comes to hand on top of a mountain ski resort (a snow-blower/grinder, antlers, ski-poles, razored snowboards – cue a ‘shredding’ joke that never comes), tiny moments of poignance amid the splatsick comedy as the hero can’t bring himself to serve his zombified friend as callously as he does every other drooling extra, jokey local colour (yodelling, waltzes, beer, stashes of Nazi weapons, zombie deer, an accordion, and – as promised – shambling dead in national costume) and a general air of hurry and getting-it-over-with (it runs 78 minutes).
In the opening, legendary snowboarding daredevil Steve (Laurie Calvert) fouls up a sponsorship bid by boarding nude in front of a nine-year-old girl in a wheelchair and ticks off his more serious partner Branka (Gabriela Macinkova). With amiable Danish boarder Josh (Oscar Dyekjaer Giese), they try to get off the mountain – but an end of season party is in full swing at the inn run by Rita (Margarete Tiesel) and there’s no way down. Meanwhile, unethical resort-owner Franz (Karl Fischer) is responsible for the outbreak by deploying a snow-creating machine (intended to combat the threat to the resort from global warming) which splutters glowing green toxic gunk into the air and first infects unimpressed, puking investor Chekov (Kari Rakkola), who lumbers onto the dancefloor at Rita’s and passes the condition (which involves a distinctive faceload of boils and pustules) to the apres-ski crowd. After that, it’s as expected – Steve shapes up and Branka is impressed, Franz keeps acting villainous before and after death and a lot of zombies get gruesomely disembowelled, debrained or put through the grinder.
Director Dominik Hartl – who also co-wrote with Armin Prediger – has nice widescreen snowscapes to play with and stages some gags reasonably well. Others are as lumpen as week-old schnitzel – the zombies lulled by cheesy music bit was much funnier in Infested (when drone ‘Da-Da-Da’ prompted automatic dancing), the zombie deer aren’t as creepy as the one in Train to Busan (just how many zombie deer movies do we need?), a supposedly hilarious bit as Rita opens fire with a machine gun and destroys her bar without killing a single zombie just gets a ‘huh’ reaction, and the Dead Snow movies go a lot farther than this. Still, it’s likeable enough