Cinema Dispatch: The Snowman

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The Snowman and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Tomas Alfredson

Is anyone else super excited to see this movie?  There’s something innately appealing about a serial killer movie, as morbid as that sounds, mostly because I feel they’re one of the purest forms of a Good Guy vs Bad Guy story that pits two characters against each other in a battle of wits to see who comes out on top!  Face/Off, Death Note, Silence of the Lambs, Sherlock; the list goes on and on and I always find them to be at least somewhat enjoyable… though I have never seen that Alex Cross movie which I hear is so bad it’d probably ruin the whole genre for me.  At least this movie looks better than THAT film did and from the trailers it looks like a rather interesting murder mystery with a neat little gimmick for the killer that certainly sets them apart from your typical slasher.  Will this be another great film to add to the list, or will all the hopes I had for this melt into a sad little puddle like a snowman left in the sun for far too long?  Let’s find out!!

The movie follows the adventure of the hilariously named Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) and if you think that’s just a poor translation; the writer of the book this is based on ALSO wrote a book called Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder.  Anyway, Detective Hole is a complete and utter wreck when we catch up with him as he’s constantly drinking and sleeping on park benches despite the fact that he’s supposedly a legendary detective who’s solved all sorts of difficult cases… I think. The latest mystery he’s tasked to solve is a series of disappearances which may end up being homicides and he’s got a fresh new detective out of the academy named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson) to help and/or annoy him as he tries to find a connection between them.  I’m not sure if he figures out that the connection is a snowman being built in front of the home of each victim (the movie is rather bad at conveying information) but that seems to be the killer’s signature; hence the title.  Detective Hole has to get to the bottom of this case soon; not only to save whoever the killer’s next victim is, but because the killer seems to have taken a liking to the drunk detective and may be targeting him or his loved ones soon if he can’t catch him first.  Can Detective Hole figure out who’s been kidnapping these people and cutting them to pieces; despite his hilarious name?  Doe these recent kidnappings have anything to do with a case from six years ago that was led by Detective Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer) who died under mysterious circumstances?  Seriously, did anyone read the script to this before filming?  Were there pages missing or did someone ACTUALLY think that this all made sense?

 

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Seems like a lot of effort just to make a point.  Wait… what was the point again?

What the heck was that?  No seriously, what did I just freaking sit through!?  This is a movie SO bad that it somehow comes around to being downright fascinating; a monstrosity that we will be dissecting for years to come and will surely be used in film schools as an example on how NOT to make a movie.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a murder mystery that should be rather straightforward told so poorly on film which is saying something considering how many crappy slasher films and Silence of the Lambs knockoffs there are out there that don’t have a tenth of the talent that this film has behind it.  It’s an absolutely gorgeous film with a solid score and a more than capable cast, but the final product that is being presented to us on screen feels only half finished; like the budget ran out halfway through production and they either had to cut everything they couldn’t film or add shitty voice overs to scenes that were finished to try and make any of this make sense.  I’m amazed right now.  I thought the worst film this weekend was going to be that new Madea movie or the Gerard Butler disaster film that looks to be in VERY poor taste, but once again Michael Fassbender can’t pick a freaking script to save his life and we’re all paying the consequences for it.

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“Yup.  That’s a chair alright.”     “Brilliant deduction, champ.  That’s why we pay YOU the big bucks!”

Okay, that might be a bit unfair.  I haven’t read the book that this movie is based on and for all I know it’s a chilling and well thought out mystery novel that was just poorly adapted to the screen.  I mean… I sort of doubt it considering what little I was able to be gleam of the original work from the incomprehensible disaster that somehow found its way into theaters (seems like a clear knockoff of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), but the problems of this film are far FAR deeper than whatever the source material may have been.  It no doubt gives off a decent first impression with the first ten minutes (an extended flashback followed by Fassbender’s introduction) but after that you start to get the sinking sensation that no one has any idea what the hell they were doing in this.  The movie just never manages to find its footing for a good half hour, and when it finally DOES have a clear goal in mind, it’s still a meandering mess with subplots out the wazoo and characters with the most roundabout and unnecessarily complex motivations you can imagine.  I mean I don’t want to get TOO deep into spoilers, but how does this one kid NOT know who his freaking dad is when there’s an older man inexplicably hanging out with him all the time?  Why did one character feel it necessary to hide their past when the film establishes that literally NO ONE thinks her past would have ANYTHING to do with what’s going on with the current investigation?  Why after all this time and absolutely NO change in Fassbender’s character (he even proved himself to be an irresponsible jerk not twenty minutes before) does his ex-wife all of a sudden want to jump his bones?  This isn’t one of those art house flicks where the characters don’t act human so they can represent some sort of idea or theme, and I doubt this is considering good characterization in its native country of Norway.  It’s just bad writing for bad characters who you just can’t be bothered to care about in the least because the movie fails to let us know what they’re even about.

 

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Pretty much the only good idea anyone has in this…

On top of that, you never have ANY idea what the fuck is going on and the movie does a piss poor job of conveying pertinent details to the audience in a timely fashion.  There are scenes in this movie that are flashbacks and the film doesn’t clue you into that fact until the END of the SECOND one.  It’s like this throughout the damn movie where you can’t get a bead on anything that’s happening, how they’re connected, and what the freaking point to all this was.  Can someone PLEASE tell me what JK Simmons has to do with anything that’s going on?  What about that one lady who went topless for one scene and then just hung around in the back for the rest of the movie!?  They never explain WHY she showed off her breasts in one scene despite it being presented to us like a clue to solving this damn mystery, and her character never amounts to anything to the story!  I guess all the misdirection and the completely useless characters could be considered Red Herrings, but the movie is structured so poorly that we get nothing BUT Red Herrings until the last freaking minute!

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“Hello?  Am I still in the movie?”     “YOU WILL STAY IN YOUR CAGE UNTIL WE DECIDE YOUR PRESENCE IS NEEDED!!”

There’s easily forty five minutes of this movie that could have been cut without losing a single clue or insight into this mystery and so you end up just sitting there watching the film desperately try to come up with something interesting and failing at every attempt; to the point that the ACTUAL serial killer in this movie is barely a presence.  Yeah, THAT was a big shock for me!  Maybe I’ve been spoiled by shows like Dexter and Hannibal, but half the fun of watching a movie about a serial killer is to ACTUALLY watch the serial killer!  Even if the identity is supposed to remain a mystery, their presence should be felt in every scene, yet this movie is too distracted with watching Fassbender fail to keep his shit together, whatever the fuck JK Simmons is doing, and Val Kilmer flashbacks to allow the killer to be a genuine threat in this movie!  Speaking of the flashbacks, I’m feeling a bit lenient about those considering that Val Kilmer has been pretty sick lately, but WOW are those scenes pointless!  Take the utterly confusing nature of the movie proper and then add in the fact that we only get like four scenes to figure out what the hell is going on in that subplot.  By the time we get to the final flashback, I STILL had no idea what Val Kilmer found that was apparently THE KEY for him to solve this case; let alone what Michael Fassbender or any other character may have been able to glean from that investigation.

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Of course!  He makes the snowmen out of snow!!

Before I give myself a heart attack from sheer befuddled rage, let me try to come up with a few things the movie did right.  Rebecca Ferguson as the new recruit Katrine is somewhat confusing as a character, but towards the end she easily becomes the most compelling and clearly defined person in this entire thing and she has some great scenes once her motives are crystalized to the audience.  She certainly more compelling than Michael Fassbender or the killer; both of whom just meander in and out of the story without clear direction and it’s a shame that the movie wasn’t all about her instead.  The movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at and even has some well-structured compositions (backed up by a really great soundtrack) that sell the daunting beauty of the setting even when horrific stuff is going on within it, and as always a movie set in the dead of winter will always get an extra point from me just because of how much I love seeing that season portrayed on film.  There are moments of intrigue and I GUESS the big twist at the end could have worked if it was explained better, but since the killer is such a non-entity throughout this, the twist just feels perfunctory and lands with very little impact.  Still, the actor who plays the killer (once revealed) is good in the role and really deserved a better movie to show their skills.  In fact, EVERYONE in this deserved a better movie.  WE ALL deserved a better freaking movie than whatever the hell this is!

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Just sleep this one off, go make another X-Men sequel, and try again with something that DOESN’T SUCK!!

I could seriously just sit here and point out all the hilariously bad decisions that this movie makes (I didn’t even get into the ending which is completely ABSURD or the stupidly over sized tablet thingy that Rebecca Ferguson is constantly lugging around), but at this point it’s clear what went wrong.  The movie was simply never finished and what we have now is the scraps of a troubled production that was painstakingly put together to try and make something that could be released to theaters, and they failed MISERABLY at that task.  I don’t believe this to be the WORST movie of the year since so many of the individual pieces (the look, the acting, some of the story beats) are competent boarding on good, but there’s too many other pieces that are missing for this puzzle to resemble what it was intended to be.  I’d say it’s worth seeing if you wanted to STUDY it and have a high tolerance for boredom, but for most people this is a hard pass.  Don’t even bother with it when it get a home release as it’s honestly too slow paced to be a GOOD BAD MOVIE, and you’ll probably get more out of people like me telling you EXACTLY how bad this is than experiencing it yourself.  I mean that’s what we’re here for right?  We valiantly go to the multiplex every weekend to see crap like this so that we can tell you to stay far far away.  Truly it is the most noble of callings; especially considering the movie I just had to sit through…

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