The Snowman should work on a fundamental level. Presented next to the stark contrast of a Norwegian winter, it has the atmosphere for an investigative mire through paranoia, a devoted episode in the coldness of murder. With a backdrop splayed with the natural chill of the season, that unnatural rise of the hair on your back can easily be confused for the environment, only to be verified that your life is in jeopardy, your human instinct to fear the cold was correct and all is not right in the snow. There is a predisposition, a seemingly unproven rationale, to view the cold as a negative. Many do not like it. Many connect the word “cold” with removed, isolated and unstable. Those connotations come into play here. You are alone. It is cold. Whether it’s in the field covered in snow or on the frozen lake, no one is going to hear you scream.
This is the conventional basis for a murder mystery and with talent like Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson at your disposal, you should, in theory, be able to convey these emotions whilst diving into the terror created by an unseen psychopath bent on torturing not just those around you but your identity as a person.
What you have read above is a far more intriguing set of lines than will ever be read in Tomas Alfredson’s film. Wildly panned by all forms of human beings, The Snowman went straight to limited showings after two weeks and by this point, it had become difficult for me to find a place to see it. It was such a displeasure that theaters seemed to be going out of their way to save their customers’ time. I appreciated that as a viewer but hated it as a critic. I just wanted to see how bad it truly was.
The Snowman comes as advertised, or rather, not. It comes as audiences have advertised it, not as the studios have. It is barren but not in the context that it’s meant to be. It’s an empty film, with scrawled-out pages of script reserved for only the most mundane of collegiate textbooks.
Based off a series of crime novels, Alfredson’s film is swallowed by the sinkhole that is doing too much and also too little, embedding too many plot points into his narrative and then failing to develop any of them, leaving the lot elementary and the tale as a whole as intriguing as a pot of three-day old porridge, lacking any consistency and being of so little substance that it holds no sustenance and contains no adjective other than the word “bland”.
It is a picture that misses out on the power of cinematography, forgoing the tool that would best demonstrate the serenity of the landscape contrasted with a murderer with a pathological obsession with death and snowmen. Mixing sociopathy into this character’s origin would likely make for a more complex menace, one not easily understood but with loads to say.
This is a concept I would love to brainstorm, a script I’d love to write. We have a lot of options here, a lot of nerve endings to tap into and memories to create. That might be why The Snowman is so bothersome for me. It is specifically this type of film that should be attempting to numb our primal feelings and agitate the receptors we would rather not embrace like paralysis, dread and the foresight of knowing that our characters’ actions, and possibly our own, might be meaningless and lead to the same result regardless of their/our efforts. It should have the steadfastness to remain after viewing for a time and cause us to examine the reactions we had from the material.
Yet despite the movie’s ability to speak, it does not speak. Despite its ability to write, it does not write. Despite its ability to shred us, it leaves us reserved and removed.
Michael Fassbender’s Harry Hole is a washed up detective and now full-time alcoholic. He was the real deal back in the day but now is fully off the tracks and the allure of a possible serial killer is the only thing that might have him on his last wheel. Only, we spend no time learning about how real of a deal he might have been, nor how important this case is to him. He seems reluctant to even peruse it let alone pursue it, giving me the inkling early on we have a less than interested protagonist, which isn’t exactly enticing to an audience.
We also have his ex-girlfriend and her son in the picture, for some reason, and we have Rebecca Ferguson’s Katrine Bratt, who still has the itch for crime-solving but also feels like yet another sediment to an already overloaded concoction. It is a spider web spread out too far and with strands that clearly hold little significance. Notwithstanding, the camera will continue to spend valued time on said threads that to any somewhat seeing person hold zero intrigue.
Ferguson and Fassbender’s characters never seem to be on the same page nor in the same book, telling two separate tales rather than one complete one, only halving a film that already feels halved. There is an absence of a meaningful music score or any semblance of flow because of the rampant character flips, bouncing back and forth like a disorganized ping-pong game at a frat house on a Friday night. There’s also no regular communication between Hole and the assailant. The trailer hints at messages engraved in the ice. That doesn’t happen and there’s only one letter sent to the investigator.
I haven’t yet mentioned how dull this film is. Suspenseful crime should be a piece of sharp-edged cutlery. It can be quick or drawn out and yet just as lethal, just as effective. This blade is rusted. It lacks grit, style, finesse and aggression. It is apathetic. I am not. I’m pissed off.
Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.
80-89 It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (Sinister, Olympus Has Fallen, The Cable Guy, The Cabin in the Woods, Tears of the Sun)
50-59 This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Death Note, True Memoirs of an International Assassin, The Great Wall, Robin Hood, Underworld)
40-49 This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, Power Rangers, Underworld: Evolution, Batman & Robin, Bloodsport)
30-39 Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (Most Likely to Die, Independence Day: Resurgence, The Crow: City of Angels, Centurion, Planet of the Apes)
0-19 Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie Stoner, The Forbidden Dimensions, Cyborg, Outcast, Sabotage)
My score for The Snowman: 26.
This 2017 entry fails in every category. Fassbender is collecting a paycheck, the direction is awful, the reveal at the end unveils a huge problem with the culprit’s motivations and worst of all, I haven’t even mention that the great J.K. Simmons is sitting in the damn corner waiting to be given something to do. Won’t miss this one.