Review: ‘The Snowman’ Proves That October Is No Time For Snow

With glimpses into the past and present, The Snowman takes place in icy and cold Oslo, Norway. We open by witnessing a disturbing scene that begins with a police car driving up to a remote house where a young boy and his mother are residing. A man in civilian clothes enters, does a chore or two and begins quizzing the boy in History. For every incorrect question, he strikes the boy’s mother as he just sits there horrified. Eventually the man has had enough and takes the woman upstairs for some adult alone time. In the meantime, the boy goes outside and makes an incredibly ominous looking snowman. I’m not sure if it actually looked ominous or I just knew enough about the subject matter that was to come, but it sure as hell wasn’t a work of art. An argument breaks out and the man races out of the house, takes one fateful look at the snowman, and speeds off in his car. The boy and his mother chase after him across the snowy Norwegian country side. All of a sudden, the mother swerves the car onto a frozen lake. The boy jumps out and shouts for his mother to join him. Instead she stays in the car and simply stares at her son as she slowly, and willingly, descends into the icy water. Whether this child grows up to become a killer or not is yet to be seen, however it is pretty clear that he will most likely have a litany of issues from this type of trauma.

The main premise of the movie is that there is a killer who is kidnapping women and likes to build snowmen. Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) is a police officer who is constantly in a drunken stupor. Harry used to be a decorated officer, but his life has spiraled out of control and he seems to be awfully bored and is in search of some excitement, preferably in the form of a serial killer. Luckily for him his wish is granted. The killer begins toying with Harry by sending him letters, letting him know that Harry is being watched and how close he was to saving someone’s life. Of course the letters feature a drawing of the killer’s trademark, a snowman. As more women keep disappearing, Harry tries to solve the mystery and stop the snowman killer once and for all. There are other big name stars in the film – most notably Val Kilmer, J.K. Simmons, and Rebecca Ferguson – but overall their talents are greatly underutilized.

I’d go out on a limb and say it is fairly uncommon to have a director make excuses to the media about a bunch of negative feedback his film was receiving from critics before it had even been officially released. Well luckily for us, we get to see exactly that unfold in front of our eyes. Director Tomas Alfredson, when speaking to the Norwegian Broadcasting Company NRK, made it clear that they were rushed when filming the movie. Alfredson was also upset that nearly 15 percent of the script was not able to be shot for the film. I could understand if there was maybe 15 percent he wanted to swap out to clear up some inconsistencies and make it more coherent. However if he wanted to ADD 15 percent to the movie it quite possibly could have been even more of a disaster. The Snowman was already drawn out and dull. The scares were few and far between, the suspense was lacking, and it really did not have any memorable moments. The unfortunate part is that The Snowman had all of the right pieces – super successful and popular source material, talented stars across the board, and the backing of major Hollywood players… yet it still managed to fall flat. I wanted to like this one, I really did, but I couldn’t even convince myself that I somewhat enjoyed it by the end. By the sound of his comments, it seems like Tomas Alfredson agrees.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5