It's a strange thing, being treated like an actual film critic. About a year and a half ago, someone told me that I'd been quoted in an ad for Wristcutters: A Love Story that ran in the New York Times, which just seems ridiculous - indie as it was, there were also plenty of reviews from people you might have heard of. I've even been quoted on DVD covers a few times - though the one time it had my name rather than "eFilmCritic", it was attached to words I hadn't written (I believe ADV has allowed the rights to Synesthesia to lapse since, so that'll disappear off the market soon enough). Still, it's basically a studio saying "see this - a computer programmer in Massachusetts who has a blog thinks it's good!" Crazy, right?
And yet, apparently the stuff that gets reprinted on eFilmCritic and Hollywood Bitch-slap gets enough eyeballs that it's worth giving me the occasional festival pass or, in this case, envelope full of screeners, even though I honestly have no idea whether or not any review of mine has ever made a studio more than the money I would otherwise pay to see a movie. It's impossible to track, but I guess it's possible. Maybe even probable, in the cases of movies where few reviews exist.
Reviewing from screeners is weird, though. They tend to be no-frills DVDs, which means with the widescreen ones not even anamorphic (oddly, I had a VHS screener once that was - that was a curiosity!) and a straight stereo mix, so I can't really comment that much about the look and sound of the movie. The one for Dead Snow tended to pop the "for review use only" message (which occupies half the screen) in when it was most distracting, right on top of the picture, rather than in the blank space. I suspect that they're meant for the busy, on-the-go film critic, who watches them on his or her laptop between other work. My watching them on my living room HDTV is probably unusual - heck, I wound up not reviewing a bunch of screeners from Fantastic Fest because neither my HD DVD nor Blu-Ray player would get them to do anything, and I hate watching movies on my laptop (though I haven't tried it with the SlingCatcher, which seems glitchy but that might just be the computer choking on trying to stream in and out at once).
I mention this because IFC Films has sent me eight recent/upcoming movies from their "IFC Midnight" series, which I'll try to get through around baseball games, the NYAFF, etc. Dead Snow is the first; I think I may be able to get a couple more in this week
(Note: IFC is doing a simultaneous release in NY/LA theaters and On Demand; according to the publicity materials, the theatrical release will be in Norwegian with English subtitles, while the pay-per-view release is dubbed into English. Both options will be present on the forthcoming DVD, but until then, make sure the one you see matches your preferences. This review is of the subtitled version.)
Død Snø (Dead Snow
* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 June 2009 in Jay's Living Room (screener DVD - letterboxed w/ notices)
Dead Snow doesn't need a whole lot of reviewing. It's the movie with the zombie Nazis, and if the mention of the phrase "zombie Nazis" makes a person say "tell me more", what he really means is "tell me if they screwed it up". Short answer: No, they don't. This isn't a horror classic, but it's also no disaster.
It's a Norwegian twist on the familiar horror template: Eight friends driving out to the middle of nowhere to a cabin with no cell phone reception; it being Norway, they're looking forward to some skiing, sledding, and snowmobiling on their Easter vacation. They are college students in their senior year, about to start med school, though Martin (Vegar Hoel) gets squeamish at the sight of blood - obviously this will be an issue, just like girlfriend Hanna (Charlotte Frogner) suffering from claustrophobia. The single guys are Roy (Stig Frode Henriksen), the horndog, and Erlend (Jeppe Laursen), the movie nerd. The single girls are Chris (Jenny Skavlan), also into the movies, and Liv (Evy Kasseth Røsten). Vegard (Lasse Valdal) is the handsome, rugged type, though maybe not quite so sporty as his girlfriend Sara (Ane Dahl Torp), who has opted to hike to the cabin. Alas, it doesn't look as if she will make it, if the opening scene with a young female hiker getting thrown around by unseen assailants is any indication.
Fortunately, someone drops in to give them a little exposition about how, during WWII, the area was occupied by an especially nasty group of Germans who looted the town before being driven into the snow. The film's first act is filled with that sort of inelegant information dump: When the characters have a long conversation about how to tell whether you're facing up or down after being caught in an earthquake, you may want to start taking bets with your friends on who gets caught upside down in an earthquake and when. I imagine that the inevitable is more fun when you've got money riding on the details.
Full review at EFC (I see a movie because of them, they get the click-through).