Director Tommy Wirkola on Nazi Zombies and ‘Dead Snow 2’
The filmmaker discuess horror/comedies, WWII Norway, and zombie sex
Oct 24, 2014 Web Exclusive
Writer/director Tommy Wirkola enjoys zombie movies, but has held a special affinity for movies that combine horror and gore since he was a child. The result was 2009’s Dead Snow, a horror/comedy film about a group of Norwegian skiers who do the unthinkable: reincarnate a regiment of Nazi zombies. The sequel—Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead—could have strictly been a continuation of a hilarious premise, but Wirkola has more tricks up his sleeve. Namely, he quickly equips his protagonist Martin—who lost his arm in the first film—with a zombie arm. Realizing the arm allows him to raise the dead, Martin resurrects a regiment of Russian troops, pitting his own zombie army against his old nemesis, Colonel Herzog.
Shawn Hazelett (Under the Radar): Nazi zombies. What gave you that idea for the first movie?
Tommy Wirkola: Well, I like zombies, and I like Nazis. [laughs] I wanted to make a zombie film. We knew we wanted to make them unique. So we decided to use a little bit about of what’s special about Norway. We did have a lot of Nazi’s here in the Second World War. It was an important place for the Germans. So we decided to use a little about the local history. Secondly, the fact that they are zombies helps makes them unique. Their urbanization skills. They’re not just running wild wanting flesh. They actually have a purpose and a goal and a leader. And we felt all these things could help us separate ourselves in the zombie genre. Plus, they’re twice as evil. Nazis and zombies.
I actually thought the movie was very well researched. The Russian regiment coming from The Battle of Kursk was a nice detail. Are you a World War II buff, or did you have to do a lot of supplemental research as you were writing the script?
I’m very interested. And we have a lot of stories from growing up. All that stuff about hiding the big warships in the fjords in northern of Norway. It was a lot of mix and match of those stories to see what wound up. It was very natural for me coming interested in all that. They had a lot of Russian war camps in the northern region. The Russians were the one actually liberating us in the north. Of course, it’s pure fantasy and in a very fantastical place. It is cool when it can get grounded in fact.
What are some of your favorite zombie movies?
For me it was always the ones that combined humor with gore. Evil Dead. Brain Dead. Return of the Living Dead. Of course the Romero films as well. I’m a big zombie geek. I remember seeing when I was younger the first films that really combined humor and gore. That was a revelation for me and I’ve always loved that combination since.
Maybe I’m just not well versed in the zombie genre, but the idea of Martin and Herzog essentially trading arms—does that have origins in any source material or was that just part of a brainstorming session?
It was part of a brainstorming session. We liked the switch and that Martin was becoming more of a zombie and that Herzog—well, he’s not becoming more of a human. But we liked the duality of it and making them adversaries in a fun way. Of course, the main gag was having the zombie arm on Martin and how we could have fun with it. And how we could expand the limits of our world.
You offer a lot of visuals in that regard. So, what do you think is grosser: the intestine stuff or the zombie sex?
I think the zombie sex is a beautiful, romantic scene.
Right. I’m fairly narrow-minded. I think you got me.
The sex scene was actually supposed to be a lot more disgusting. We shot a lot more details that we cut out because we wanted it to be a more romantic thing. I think everything is so comical anyway that it won’t be disgusting. The way it was originally shot, it was very extreme. I mean we had white maggots coming out of the--several openings in the body. It was quite visual.
A lot of characters have some really awful things done to them. The little boy in the hospital and the guy in the “I heart Norway” tee-shirt. I feel like he died at least four times.
We called him sidekick zombie. He was having a bad, bad day.
Were there any great ideas that you just couldn’t fit into the film?
In the first film I really feel like everything we wrote we got the way it should be. We had the time and the money to do it. And of course there are always small things as you go along – like, for example we had an idea for a shot we didn’t have time to get right. After the tank drives over the three children in the sandbox, you were supposed to see blood coming out, you see the kid’s glasses… Just a bunch of visual gags. A lot of those details we didn’t have time to do. It was a tough shoot, an intense shoot because of the insane schedule. But we have some ideas left that we want to keep for a potential third one. I think if we ever do a third one there’s only one way of ever topping this: we have to bring back Hitler. Zombie Hitler. It feels natural.
Maybe a child could result from the zombie sex?
If we ever do a number three, I think it could be a fun place to visit.
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