There’s a gruesome tableau on display roughly a third into serial killer thriller The Snowman. A woman’s dismembered corpse is splayed out across the side of a snowy mountain, her severed limbs reconstructed in some twisted approximation of humanity. This turns out to be a perfect metaphor for the film itself: an awkward, cobbled-together attempt at a film that’s crude in its parts and its whole.
The Snowman is an unmitigated disaster. It’s not even the screenplay – clumsily adapted from Jo Nesbø’s Norwegian novel by a trio of screenwriters – that’s the real problem. Sure, it’s trite and preposterous and you can see its twists coming a mile away even through thick snow, but I generally have a soft spot for such schlocky serial killer nonsense, so I’m (almost) entirely unbothered by these flaws.
The real problem? Literally everything else.
The film’s structure betrays its prominent production problems. There’s cheap CGI. Horrendous ADR – half the exposition occurs in car trips between locations with the actors suspiciously out of shot. Inexplicably out-of-place product placement (why is a down-on-his-luck Norwegian grandpa packing shiny new Beats by Dre?). A conga line of prominent Hollywood actors, each with their own shitty attempt at a Norwegian accent (or lack thereof). Val Kilmer! Val fucking Kilmer, delivering easily the year’s worst performance in a major film. Even the likes of Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson and J.K. Simmons can’t manage to produce a decent performance; Charlotte Gainsbourg is the sole bright spot.
How can a film edited by Claire Simpson – of Platoon, Wall Street and, more recently, Far From the Madding Crowd– and living legend Thelma Schoonmaker be so incoherent? There are flashbacks gracelessly shoved into the middle of scenes. The lack of establishing shots leaves the spatial geometry almost entirely incoherent. Dig a little into the film’s troubled production – apparently it was originally intended for executive producer Martin Scorsese, and was dumped onto Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Tomas Alfredson with little notice – and it becomes clear that The Snowman’s problems are due to lack of time, not lack of talent.
I went into The Snowman aware of its dire early reviews, but I was honestly quite optimistic. As I suggested before, I love serial killer trash! I wasn’t expecting sophistication or intelligence or cinematic grandeur. I expected dead bodies and ludicrous twists. I got the latter, but in a drily staged, soberly-constructed pile of garbage. The film concludes with a broad attempt to stage a sequel; I can’t imagine anything I’d want to see less. Leave this one out to melt.