It’s official – The Snowman may well be the worst serial killer film ever made

Remember how a 7-Eleven Slurpee can look delicious in theory, but then causes a massive brain freeze? That’s The Snowman, only less satisfying.

click to enlarge Michael Fassbender tracks a serial killer in The Snowman. In reality, he should be hunting down his agent for handing him this script. - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
Michael Fassbender tracks a serial killer in The Snowman. In reality, he should be hunting down his agent for handing him this script.

On a scale of one to Se7en, with David Fincher’s serial killer masterpiece as the Holy Grail, The Snowman is a big, fat dud.

How did this happen?

How did Swedish director Tomas Alfredson, who helmed one of the greatest vampire movies of all time (2008’s Let the Right One In), not realize that every facet — from the script to the acting to the leaden pacing — of The Snowman was so unbelievably off?

Years from now, Alfredson’s film may be the subject of college film school lectures as a cautionary tale about how not to make a movie, but in the immediate, it’s headed for a quick death at the box office. Seriously, unless you are a masochist who revels in enduring 120 minutes of painfully inconsistent narrative, gaping plot holes and the most lame serial killer ever, you should not pay to see this movie.

The Snowman — perhaps a future RiffTrax film? - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
The Snowman — perhaps a future RiffTrax film?

Consider the following:

  • The Snowman is based on Norwegian author Jo Nesbø’s best-selling book, which is part of an extended series of 11 novels focused on legendary (and fictional) Oslo, Norway detective Harry Hole. At one point in The Snowman, a female officer tells Hole (Michael Fassbender, deserving better) that she and others studied his casework and his prowess as a master sleuth. Yet, in the film, Hole appears neither great nor competent. He doesn’t do any detecting. He gets black-out drunk, wakes up disheveled in public places and fails to show up for work for a week or more at a time. In the real world, he would be unemployed.
  • Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons co-stars as a philandering philanthropist with a penchant for snapping cell phone photos of pretty, young women he plans to exploit. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Simmons’s portrayal is both a waste of his talent and a queasy reminder that Hollywood truly loves playing up this particular type of sexual predator.  
  • One of the most surreal, WTF moments in The Snowman has nothing to do with its plot or its failings as cogent filmmaking. It’s the moment you realize that the role of Rafto, another unconventional, unorthodox detective, is being played by Val Kilmer — who is nearly unrecognizable both in appearance and voice. Seriously, poor Kilmer, who is only 57, looks like a homeless, heroin-era Nick Cave searching for a shelter and a hot meal. This can’t be the big-screen return the one-time A-lister likely wanted.
  • The always-fascinating Chloë Sevigny is on screen for less than 15 minutes total, as twins, one of whom is beheaded in the film’s lone good scene.
  • The marketing campaign for The Snowman plays up the creepy snow sculptures that the killer makes and leaves for police to find. In the film, there is zero explanation given for why the killer is fascinated with snowmen. The only insight provided comes in the form of menacing haikus that he writes to Hole where he draws a tiny snowman at the bottom of the page. Once identified, I can tell you that the killer is literally laughable as a character. So much so, that the big climatic snowdown (see what I did there?) between the killer and Hole is so lacking in tension or buildup that when the killer gets his comeuppance, the big payoff is completely wasted with one of the most jarring and clichéd on-screen demises in recent memory.
  • This is a movie that pays no mind to conventional directing tenets. It’s just so poorly executed on every level that it defies logic. Characters are introduced and discarded. Subplots are introduced and discarded. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Kilmer’s character’s storyline is, actually, entirely a flashback, but it’s never explained so I have no way of knowing.

The Snowman is so bad that people were actually saying, out loud, during the screening, “This is terrible.”

Even the publicity representative at the critic’s screening — the person responsible for getting a quick quote from reviewers as they leave the theater — didn’t seem to know what we had just witnessed. When she asked what I thought, and I said I was really confused, she said that seemed to be the consensus.

If you want to get a true taste of Nesbø’s skill as a master storyteller, and see how his prose can be converted into an excellent film, check out Headhunters, a 2011 Norwegian import, which is one hell of a bloody thrill-ride.

As for The Snowman, one can only hope it melts, and quickly, from memory.

 


About The Author

John W. Allman

John W. Allman has spent more than 25 years as a professional journalist and writer, but he’s loved movies his entire life. Good movies, awful movies, movies that are so gloriously bad you can’t help but champion them. Since 2009, he has cultivated a review column and now a website dedicated to the genre films...
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