‘The Snowman’ should take a cold, hard look at itself

New Michael Fassbender thriller is more comical than it is scary


New thriller "The Snowman," starring Michael Fassbender, is devoid of both scares and any apparent effort.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

“The Snowman” is not about a killer snowman. Contrary to what the trailer might suggest, there are absolutely no supernatural elements or undertones in this movie. From the beginning, it is disappointingly clear that the serial killer is an actual person who leaves snowmen at the site of their murders.

Based on the successful 2007 novel by Jo Nesbø, “The Snowman” is supposed to be a murder mystery set in Norway. In reality, the real mystery is why this movie was made in the first place.

When women begin to disappear during snowfalls, which is an important part of the plot — regardless of the fact that it takes place in winter in Norway — detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) realizes a connection to the decades-old serial killer known as “The Snowman.” Intermittent flashbacks attempt to explain the failed investigations that took place when the killer first became active in building snowmen. Part of the problem is that the movie is trying misdirect the audience to the murderer, which means introducing a series of suspicious and cheesy stock characters, all with their own irrelevant subplots.

Fassbender’s role as Hole — an alcoholic detective and washed-up legend barely capable of showing up for work — is far too familiar. Hole is a stereotype that the audience has definitely seen before — even his name sounds cliché. Fassbender does not bring anything particularly new to the role.

In fact, every single character is one-dimensional and overused. Rebecca Ferguson plays Katrine Bratt, the keen new female detective who will do anything to solve this case. Charlotte Gainsbourg is Rakel, Harry Hole’s charming ex-girlfriend and best friend. J.K. Simmons is Arve Støp, the millionaire socialite with a seedy personality. Simmons plays him well, but again, the role is entirely unoriginal. Val Kilmer is also in for the flashback portions — he plays the private investigator from nine years earlier in a confusing role that probably should have been cut out. Not even Kilmer could save this one.

The only original aspect of this movie is that the serial killer leaves snowmen everywhere, sometimes decapitating people and leaving a snowman head on their bodies — which ends up melting before the police arrive anyway. It is also never addressed that, unlike clowns, snowmen are blatantly not scary — it’s a challenge not to laugh when hearing the premise of this movie. Adding to the absurdity, these snowmen do not look like average American snowmen — they have no torso and are only made out of two balls of snow. Maybe the serial killer was just lazy.

“The Snowman” would have been better as an episode of any crime television show ever. There was no reason it had be a feature length movie — it drags. The subplots don’t tie together in the end, the flashbacks are bizarre and unnecessarily complicated and the twists are barely surprising. It cannot decide whether it wants to be a thriller or a mystery or a drama.

Even director Tomas Alfredson knows the movie does not make sense — it’s almost comical to see him admit it. In an interview with the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Alfredson said, “Our shoot time in Norway was way too short, we didn't get the whole story with us and when we started cutting we discovered that a lot was missing. It's like when you're making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don't see the whole picture.” Enough said.

Perhaps the only enjoyable aspect of the movie is that it’s set in Norway. It includes stunning views of the snowy vistas topped off by icy car chases. The film is actually very aesthetically pleasing with interesting cinematography that catches the viewer’s eye. It’s too bad it doesn’t have a genre, clear plot or worthwhile characters.

A wannabe “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Snowman” is an utter failure, both at the box office and in terms of artistic value. There are almost no redeeming factors in this movie — a narrative about a killer snowman would actually be significantly more compelling. When even the director admits the movie is the bad, it’s clear that the audience would best be spending their time and money elsewhere.

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