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Category:    Home > Reviews > Horror > Thriller > Mystery > Supernatural > Zombies > Satanic Cult > Gravediggers > Nazis > Dead Snow (IFC/2009) + House Of The Devil (2009/Dark Sky Films) + I Sell The Dead (2008/IFC/MPI Blu-rays)

Dead Snow (IFC/2009) + House Of The Devil (2009/Dark Sky Films) + I Sell The Dead (2008/IFC/MPI Blu-rays)


Picture: B-/C+/B-     Sound: B-     Extras: C/C+/C     Films: C/C+/C



With the Horror genre in a wrecked state, more filmmakers are trying to do something new and different.  Even if the results are not impressive or form a great film in the end, it is at least nice to see people who care trying.  MPI has recently issued three films in the genre that have their moments, though they all get into their own troubles, partly coming from fatigue in the genre.


Norway gives us Dead Snow (2009), maybe the only country willing to deal with the idea of a Nazi Zombie and home to several great thrillers in recent years like Insomnia and Smilla’s Sense Of Snow.  If Tarantino can go over the top with Inglourious Basterds, why not Horror that comes close to trivializing Nazis and WWII?  While Joel Schumacher’s recent Blood Creek was a more complex attempt to add Nazis to the horror mix via Hitler’s obsession with the supernatural, but Co-Writer/Director Tommy Wirkola’s film owes more to zombie films and that tradition of terror.  I liked the constant use of snow and the cast is not bad, but the zombies of formula and predictability, but is still much better and of a higher quality than the vast majority of its U.S counterparts, which in itself is a plus and not just because of the location.


Instead, the script (by Wirkola and co-star Stig Frode Henriksen) takes the characters and audience seriously enough, something missing from most U.S. productions of any genre of late.  Cinematographer Matthew Bradley Weston delivers a good looking film (it is shot in High Definition), though the 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image has more softness and motion blur than a filmed production would.  I still liked it enough despite these flaws.  Though not labeled as such, The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Norwegian 5.1 mix has its moments, but can lack soundfield and be too harsh throughout as well.  Extras include seven making of featurettes, Outtakes, teaser and trailer.




Ti West’s The House Of The Devil (2009) claims it wants to imitate (early) 1980s Horror films and is even shot in 16mm film throughout.  However, it’s look, feel and tale of Satanic cults is actually a development of the late 1960s that peaked in the later 1970s, so he is a bit off and other aspects he imitates were not invented in the 1980s either.  That mistake tells us in advance that he will make problematic choices somewhere along the line and he does.  However, enough still works despite the disappointing course this goes into because he understands how silence and suspense play priceless parts in the genre, while 99% of most people going out and trying to recycle the genre are sloppy, loud and clueless.


Samantha (Jocelin Donahue) finds a new place in town with the help of a nice landlady (Dee Wallace Stone, cast well here as she was in both E.T. and The Howling), then as she settles in, takes a babysitting job via a couple (well cast Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov) hat turns out to be something more than it seems and the trouble begins.


Casting and the look of the film are a plus.  That this 16mm production (softer than it should be, but more on that in a minute) is superior to the vast majority of 35mm film in the genre and just about all the High Definition wastes of time shows how a simple decision to avoid being showy can allow you to stand out in a glut.  The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image would be the best-look of the three Blu-rays here if West and cinematographer Eliot Rockett want the image to have what they see as an early-1980s films softness from low light stocks of the time, but since this is 16mm and not 35mm, they overplay their hand in this respect.


You can compare it to an actual 16mm Horror film of the time on Blu-ray (see the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre elsewhere on this site) or any in 35mm from the time (The Omen (1976) or Black Christmas (1974)) and you can see the slightly over-gutted the color and some fullness.  Still, at least this has a look worth talking about like the genre used to all the time. 


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix is interesting because despite being the quietest of the three, it is also the smartest in soundfield and character.  When the music does kick in, it sounds slightly old, but far more smooth and natural than its counterparts here.  Jeff Grace’s score is a plus and I hope this team tries something like this again.  Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks: a West/Donahue audio commentary track plus a West, Producers, Crew track, then we get a trailer, cast/crew interviews, Deleted Scenes and Behind The Scenes featurette.


Ambition works here for a change, but though they love Horror and deserve credit for what they pulled off, they know the words but not always the music for the genre.  Still, good try and it shows rare talent.  Hope this is not their peak.




We finally come to the Glenn McQuaid’s comical I Sell The Dead (2008) with Dominic Monaghan as a gravedigger and grave robber who tells his bizarre adventures in flashback as he confesses to a priest (Ron Perlman) in a (no pun intended) novel idea to revisit a form of storytelling the genre has lost.  Unfortunately, it is a one-joke comedy that relies on the appeal of the stars and they have some chemistry, while original Phantasm “Tall Man” Angus Scrimm having fun with his iconic image.


The problem is that this is a one-joke feature, but that is the only way you could go with this material, which is why the early 1970s might be the last major moments for this kind of character.  At least it is consistent and makes sense why all involved would want to do this, but just don’t expect too much.  Larry Fessenden also stars.


The 1080p 1.78 X 1 digital High Definition image is shot in what looks like HD video and it has softness and noise throughout, but it is not as bad as most such shoots we have seen lately, with cinematographer Richard Lopez keeping a consistent look that is not bad.  The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 mix is rougher and harsher than it should be throughout, but that sometimes subsides and does not sound bad.  Jeff Grace scored this as well, proving he might be breaking through soon if he keeps up the good work.


Extras include two feature-length audio commentaries: one with Monaghan and Fessenden, the other with McQuaid, trailer, two making of featurettes, one that is general and the other specifically covering Visual Effects and a miniature graphic novel comic book version.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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