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Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 10:38 am

“The Snowman” – Yes, It is that Bad

I ran into someone over the weekend who said to me, “We just came from seeing ‘The Snowman.’ With all the people in it, I didn’t believe it could be as bad as everyone’s saying it is.  Man, I was wrong.” Yes…yes he was. 

With approximately 10 weeks left in the 2017 movie season, Tomas Alfredson’s “The Snowman” has vaulted to the top of my worst films of the year list. Sure, you can find movies that were more poorly made, contain stilted performances or cheap special effects.  But with the talent attached to this feature, it falls so far short of expectations that it can’t help but be held in disdain and viewed in disbelief.

The serial killer in "The Snowman" leaves his gruesome signature.
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo – the seventh in a series featuring his troubled detective Harry Hole – “Snowman” is directed by Alfredson, who has the masterful horror film “Let the Right One In” to his credit as well as the complex John Le Carre adaptation “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” and features a strong cast led by Micheal Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, J.K. Simmons and Val Kilmer. The three screenwriters Peter Straughan (“Tinker”), Hossein Amini (“Drive”) and Soren Sviestrup (“The Killing”) obviously know how to fashion a script and the project proved so intriguing that Martin Scorsese was interested in directing it.  (This is why he has an executive producer credit – he developed the project for a while and then moved on.)

So what went wrong?  Why does this film move at a glacial pace? Why is it that so many seemingly key questions in this mystery go unanswered or are simply never mentioned again? Why do members of the cast base their performances on a series of stern, pensive gazes that are to connote thinking deep thoughts?  And do we really need another serial killer whose machinations are so elaborate during the climax that so many, many pieces have to fall in place for him to make a grand statement?  (In case you’re wondering, the answer is “No.”)

Detective Harry Holt (Michael Fassbender) is in over his head in "The Snowman."
Courtesy Universal Pictures

Really, there is no rhyme or reasons as to why some films work and others don’t.  Every single movie that’s put into production is a huge risk, as sure-fire things end up bombing (“John Carter” anyone?) while run-of-the mill movies become mega-hits (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”) As screenwriter William Goldman points out in his classic Hollywood tome “Adventures in the Screen Trade,” “Nobody knows anything.”

Sometimes the stars align and sometimes they don’t and in the case of “The Snowman,” despite all its assets, it just wasn’t in the cards that this would come together.  While everything falls in to place for sports teams on a winning streak, the opposite is true for those who can’t win a game. The same goes for the movies.  Instead of a fortuitous instant in which everyone was able to produce their best work, everyone involved here was off and just phoned it in. One thing’s for certain, the mystery surrounding how this movie went wrong is far more intriguing than the one these misguided characters are stumbling around trying to solve.

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