Review: ‘The Snowman’ (2017)

The Snowman poster - Mister Police

The Snowman| Tomas Alfredson | October 20th, 2017

When the first trailer dropped for The Snowman during the summer, I was pleasantly surprised. I wasn’t even aware that the director of Let the Right One In had a new film coming out. The trailer was sleek, moody, and genuinely creepy. I went into the screening of this with the expectation that The Snowman would at least be a decent thriller. It is not.

It’s actually barely even a movie. It’s a disaster of a film that was so perplexing that I couldn’t even fully experience the actual film. During the screening, my mind just tried to comprehend how this movie even got made. It’s a total mess, and one of the worst edited movies of the year, if not the decade.

Director Tomas Alfredson is a hugely talented filmmaker. His previous films like Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy are dark, brooding films that are beautiful yet haunting. Just imagine if back in 2006, expert filmmaker David Fincher suddenly directed the terrible yet hilarious Nicholas Cage horror film, The Wicker Man. That’s the best comparison I can think of for the sudden dip in quality of Alfredson’s adaptation of The Snowman. Hell, The Wicker Man might actually be the better movie (which is insane on an entirely different level). There have been news reports this week of a troubled production, where 10-15% of The Snowman script wasn’t even filmed. Even so, there’s almost no way that the addition of more scenes could have saved this movie.

The Snowman still - Michael Fassbender

Before I fully describe how bad this movie is, let’s dive into the plot. The Snowman takes place in Oslo, Norway. Detective Harry Hole (a name that even Michael Fassbender can’t save) is an alcoholic detective who partners up with a female detective (Rebecca Ferguson) in order to solve a string of murders in the area. The killer leaves a freshly made snowman at every crime scene – sometimes with the victim’s head sitting on top of the the snowy creation.

There’s one scene early on that is actually somewhat tense, but unfortunately that is the only thrill that this entire film provides. Val Kilmer co-stars in one of the most bizarre cases of line dubbing I’ve seen in a major motion picture. Literally all of Val Kilmer’s lines are dubbed by what sounds like an entirely different actor. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your outlook), these scenes reminded me of the cult “drama” The Room. The dubbing is that bad.

Michael Fassbender does his best as Harry Hole (I haven’t read the novel, but apparently it’s supposed to be pronounced Hol-Eh), but he can’t elevate a script that barely works. Rebecca Ferguson also does an alright job with her role as detective Katrine Bratt, but her character is written as a fairly dim and kind of an unlikable person. The marketing campaign for The Snowman has centered around the handwritten letters that the killer sends to Harry Hole. It’s a baffling choice, since Harry only receives two of these letters throughout the entire 2-hour movie.

The banner ads and posters have the killer writing “Mister Police, you could have saved her. I gave you all the clues”. The film however has absolutely no clue-giving, and almost no cat and mouse game whatsoever (save for one scene with Rebecca Ferguson). The killer is murdering recently pregnant women, and the police are trying to stop him. That’s it. There’s no deeper meaning. There’s no crazy twist on the killer’s motives. It begs the question as to why Alfredson even wanted to tell this story in the first place.

The Snowman still - J.K. Simmons & Rebecca Ferguson

Again, I haven’t read the novel that this movie is based on, but I really hope it’s better than what the film adaptation turned into. J.K. Simmons is in The Snowman for maybe ten minutes, and just to be a small connection to the killer. Simmons’ character is trying to get the World Cup to come to Oslo, in a political subplot that literally goes nowhere. There are tons of awkward stares, shots, and acting choices that just don’t make any sense. In my screening, there were many laughs at moments that should have been tense or scary. The actual snowmen the killer creates are hilariously adorable and crude. This makes it nearly impossible to feel any menace from them. Every time one of the little snowmen showed up, it also caused the audience to laugh.

The main sin of The Snowman is that it’s not scary or thrilling in the slightest. The killer turns out to be the weakest part of an already weak movie. This would barely qualify as a 1990s Law and Order: SVU episode. The film is edited in such a nonsensical way that certain action scenes are literally indecipherable. Actions are muddled, and how certain characters end up where they are makes almost no sense, which jarred me out of the film every time it occurred. After the first 20 minutes, I just held on to see how truly bad this film would get, and it did not disappoint. I’m truly confused how this happened, and would love to see an interview with the director to hear exactly how this all got out of hand.

The Snowman still - Michael Fassbender on a mountaintop

The Snowman is truly a bad film. One of the worst, if not the worst of the year. It genuinely pains me to say this, considering all the incredible talent in front and behind the camera. The saving grace is that the cinematography isn’t half bad. If anything, the film looks great. Norway looks like a beautiful frozen wasteland in The Snowman, and the setting deserves better. That’s the only compliment I can give it. If the film didn’t have some truly funny unintentional moments, I would feel a bigger sense of sadness for everyone involved. I’m convinced that The Snowman will earn a cult following. It’s a bad movie that just seems like it was destined to be turned into a drinking game.

Rating: 2.0/10