Standartenführer (Oberst) Herzog
|Standartenführer (Oberst) Herzog|
|Dead Snow character|
|First appearance||Dead Snow|
|Created by||Tommy Wirkola
Stig Frode Henriksen
Per Steinar Hoftun
|Portrayed by||Ørjan Gamst|
Standartenführer (Oberst) Herzog is a fictional character from Dead Snow, a Norwegian independent zombie comedy ("zomedy"). Portrayed by Ørjan Gamst, he is the chief antagonist. Originally the merciless Nazi commander for an Einsatzgruppe division stationed near Øksfjord, Norway during World War II, his appearance in the film is as a zombie, re-animated in 2009. He returns as the main antagonist of the film's sequel, Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, leading his troops to fulfill an outstanding order from the war given by Adolf Hitler.
His story begins in Northern Norway, with a mysterious hiker who tells a group of young medical students, vacationing in the mountains near Øksfjord, about the tragic history of the area from 1942 to 1945. During this time, Herzog and his soldiers tortured and abused the local populace, to such a degree that his cruelty became the grim stuff of legend for the area. Toward the end of the war, realizing that their defeat was at hand, the German soldiers began looting gold, silver and other precious items from the townspeople. However, the residents rebelled, killing many of Herzog's men. Herzog, whom the hiker calls 'the devil,' managed to escape with some of his soldiers into the mountains, where it is believed they all perished. The man tells the indifferent students that the 'evil presence' the notorious officer left behind should not be awakened, and implores them to tread carefully.
After the hiker's visit, the students find an old wooden box, containing medals, gold coins and jewelry. Unaware that they have come across some of Herzog's war loot, and having already forgotten their visitor's tale of the Nazis years prior, the students play with the gold pieces and discuss selling them.
Herzog first appears the night the box is found, retrieving one of the coins from the snow, right outside an outhouse where two of the students are having sex. He soon unleashes his zombie troops on the students, with the couple among the first to be killed.
Throughout the movie, Herzog is seen dispatching his soldiers, primarily through gestures, and observing the action from a distance. He also watches as the students accidentally set fire to their cabin. His troops ultimately kill seven of the students, along with the hiker who originally warned them.
After much carnage and bloodshed, and his zombie troops destroyed, Herzog is left alone with two surviving students. When the two survivors discuss finishing him off, Herzog yells in German, "Aufstehen!" (translated as "get up" in English), and rouses a battalion of zombie soldiers, buried beneath the snow.
During the ensuring chase, Herzog breaks with his commander role and joins the action, striking one student on the head with a hammer and disemboweling him. He then removes a gold pocketwatch off his remains. The remaining survivor, named Martin (portrayed by Vegar Hoel), realizing what Herzog is truly after, runs to the group's burnt cabin to retrieve the wooden box. Finally given his gold, Herzog appears satisfied and Martin is allowed to escape.
Upon reaching the supposed safety of his car, Martin prepares to leave the disastrous scene when he discovers one of Herzog's coins. With his discovery, Martin also discovers Herzog, who has returned to take violent possession of his remaining coin.
In the film's sequel, Herzog returns, seeking revenge and to fulfill an order given to him by Hitler during the war. Elsewhere, Martin has had Herzog's arm attached to where his own arm was severed during the first film, granting him the same ability to raise the dead that Herzog possesses. Using this power, Martin raises an army of Soviet POWs killed by the Nazis to do battle with Herzog's own army of zombie Germans. In a post-credits scene, Herzog's head is seen in the possession of a scientist, suggesting that he is still not truly gone.
In creating Herzog and the film's other Nazi zombies, writer and director Tommy Wirkola concluded that the best way to enhance the horror and disgust of standard zombies was to give them the Nazi element; he also used the historical backdrop of the Nazi occupation of Norway in developing the film's plot. In an interview, Wirkola said, "When we were about to sit down and write the actual script, we started thinking ‘What is more evil than a zombie’? A Nazi zombie! We have a really strong war-history up in the north of Norway from World War II, so it was fun to combine actual events with our own story. And you know Nazis have always been the ultimate villains in movies. Combine that with zombies and you really get something that no one would sympathise with."
While many horror movies featuring zombies are often written within a political or socioeconomic subtext -- zombies serving as an allegory to the suffering of people during economic difficulties or political uncertainties -- it was noted that no such distinction existed with Herzog or his army. In a review of the film for NPR, Nathan Lee wrote, "Dead Snow has no such ambitions, conscious or otherwise. That it features Nazi zombies doesn't speak to some Scandinavian reckoning with a historical horror (or a present-day anxiety) so much as to the fact that Nazis are, like, totally evil."
Unlike many cinematic zombies, who appear listless, mindless and shambling, Herzog is agile, focused and swift, and also unlike his zombie counterparts, he is motivated to pursue and attack humans for reasons beyond a hunger for human flesh. Along with his zombie troops, Herzog grunts and growls, yet displays a level of intelligence unique for movie monsters by giving commands, managing troops and using equipment. Also he is seen capable of some form of speech, shouting "Aufstieg!" (German for "Rise!") during the end of the film and awakening several more troops. Despite his supernatural state, he still operates as a Nazi officer, and the zombie soldiers remain under his leadership. Wirkola, who also appeared in a cameo as one of the zombie soldiers, said of his monsters, "I like to think of them as Nazi zombies. Nazis first, then zombies."
Even though a curse is alluded to in the beginning of the film, through the Nazi occupation and subsequent burial grounds the Norwegian mountains became, it is not definitive how Herzog and his soldiers became zombies. However, Wirkola used the curse angle in the creation of the film's zombies. "We went for the old-fashioned ones where they're cursed. For me there are two types of zombie films: the curse and the plague or virus. So we wanted ours to be like a ghost story mixed with Indiana Jones."
Like the movie, Herzog's appearance mixes camp with the macabre. He is dressed in a time-worn, Allgemeine SS uniform; in the movie, and the film's end credits, Herzog is referred to as oberst (colonel). However, given his uniform and that he is identified as part of an Einsatzgruppe division, he would have the equivalent rank of standartenführer. His face is ghoulish, resembling a skull with early signs of decomposition. Writing for the New York Observer, Rex Reed likened the humor exhibited in Herzog and the other zombies to Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein and added, "The cadaverous makeup is outstanding (and) the actors do an admirable job portraying authentic-looking terror."
The special effects make-up team responsible for Herzog's look were Per Steinar Hoftun and Shino Kotani, both of Freax FX, and Steinar Kaarstein, of Effektmakeren. The development crew also included Janne Røhmen (key make-up artist), Elisabeth Haugan, Gudmund Saksvik, Lene Bruksås and Ragnhild Prestholt.
Herzog was the prominent character for publicity for Dead Snow. U.S. posters, DVD and Blu-ray covers display Herzog's head, decapitated and lying on the snow, while Norwegian DVDs feature his headless torso. However, he was neither decapitated nor destroyed in the film.
In addition, Herzog is featured on the Nazi Zombies website dedicated to the Call of Duty: World at War, Zombies map, even though he does not appear in the game and there is no relationship between the map and the film, apart from the concept of Nazi zombies.
It has been reported that Wirkola is looking at making a sequel to Dead Snow, with a plot possibly involving Herzog and his zombie troops invading Northern Norway.
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