A terribly executed adaptation that is filled with poor writing and some laughably bad "horror". Steer well away.
There seemed to be a lot of promise for director Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman, what with Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson being attached to the adaptation of best-selling author Jo Nesbø’s book. However, the film we’ve been given is a convoluted mess that is severely let down by bad acting, poor editing and some truly dire writing.
We follow Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) a famed yet troubled detective working in Oslo, Norway. After receiving a cryptic, anonymous message, Hole partners up with the recently transferred Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) who is investigating a number of missing people. However, the investigation causes the person responsible for the disappearances to begin tormenting the two by leaving snowmen at the scene of each crime and as Hole and Bratt get closer to the truth, the more personal the stakes become.
If that set up sounds bland and generic, that’s because it is. The Snowman is a poorly written movie with clunky dialogue, terrible characters and a very messy plot. There is no chemistry between Hole and Bratt whatsoever with the two’s interactions never amounting to more than boring conversations made up of formulaic clunky dialogue. There are also a few pointless subplots littered throughout the film; one attempting to build Hole’s relationship with his ex’s son, another flashing back to Val Kilmer’s detective Gert Rafto and a third that follows J.K. Simmons as a sleazy, womanizing campaigner. All of these plotlines are completely inconsequential, seeming only to slow down what is already a badly paced film.
There are times where The Snowman attempts to horrify the audience with increasingly gruesome deaths. This, however, fails miserably with a lot of the gore looking like its straight from a b-movie or something from the sci-fi channel. In fact, the whole concept of making snowmen creepy in the film is laughable. It’s very hard to take the movie seriously when the killer is furiously making a snowman to the beat of a menacing score. It would be fair to say as well that the film’s ending is pretty lacklustre, with only a few character’s stories being fully resolved after what is an anticlimactic final confrontation.
A lot of The Snowman‘s problems can be put down to the horrendous editing. The opening sequence, filled with quick cuts and terrible pacing, really sets the tone for the rest of the film, which sees us jumping between characters in quick succession, not giving enough time for properly fleshed out scenes. We’ll cut from the killer stalking their next victim, to Hole chatting with his son only to go straight back to the killer. As a result, what little tension there was is lost and any investment in what’s happening is reduced to null. This is incredibly frustrating as it seems as if there could have been a semi-good movie here with what was filmed, but it has been put together in such a way that the final product feels disjointed. There’s also some very noticeable audio dubbing for all of Val Kilmer’s dialogue, which for a film of this budget is inexcusable.
As for the performances, this is sure to be a film that the majority of the cast will wish to forget. Fassbender and Ferguson are both cold and detached throughout leaving you with no connection to their characters. Val Kilmer is awful in his brief appearances as detective Gert Rafto, as is the emotionless Chloë Sevigny who plays twins, Sylvia and Anne. It’s arguable that the majority of the cast did their best with what they were given, but at the end of it all, it’s hard to look back on anyone fondly.
Overall, when you look at the source material and the talent involved, The Snowman could have been. Unfortunately, it will now go down as one of the worst films of 2017 thanks to its terrible execution and throwaway story.
The Snowman (2017), directed by Tomas Alfredson, is distributed in the UK by Universal, certificate 15.