Film Review: The Snowman (dir by Tomas Alfredson)


So, I finally watched the 2018 thriller, The Snowman, and my main reaction to the film is that it featured a lot of snow.

That’s understandable, of course.  The film takes place in Norway and it’s called The Snowman so, naturally, I wasn’t expecting a lot of sunshine.  Still, after a while, the constant shots of the snow-covered landscape start to feel like almost some sort of an inside joke.  It’s almost as if the film is daring you to try to find one blade of grass in Norway.  Of course, the snow is important because the film’s about a serial killer who builds snowmen at the sites of his crimes.  They’re usually pretty big snowmen as well.  It’s hard not to be a little impressed by the fact that he could apparently make such impressive snowmen without anyone noticing.

Along with the snow, the other thing that I noticed about this movie is that apparently no one knows how to flip a light switch in Norway.  This is one of those films where every scene seems to take place in a dark room.  I found myself worrying about everyone’s eyesight and I was surprised the everyone in the film wasn’t wearing glasses.  I can only imagine how much strain that puts on the eyes when you’re constantly trying to read and look for clues in the dark.

Michael Fassbender plays Harry Hole, a Norwegian police inspector who may be troubled but still gets results!  He’s upset because his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Gainsbourg) has a new boyfriend (Jonas Karlsson).  He’s also upset because his son (Michael Yates) doesn’t know that Harry is actually his father.  Or, at least, I think that Harry’s upset.  It’s hard to tell because Fassbender gives a performance that’s almost as cold as the snow covering the Norwegian ground.  Of course, he’s always watchable because he’s Fassbender.  But, overall, he doesn’t seem to be particularly invested in either the role or the film.

Harry and his new partner (Rebecca Ferguson) are investigating a missing person’s case, which quickly turns into a multiple murder mystery.  It turns out that the crimes are linked to a bunch of old murders, all of which were investigated by a detective named Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer).  Gert was troubled but he still got results!  Or, at least, Harry thinks that he may have gotten results.  Nine years ago, Rafto died under mysterious circumstances…

Now, I have to admit that when, 30 minutes into the film, the words “9 years earlier” flashed on the screen, I groaned a bit.  I mean, it seemed to me that the movie was already slow enough without tossing in a bunch of flashbacks.  However, I quickly came to look forward to those brief flashbacks, mostly because they featured Val Kilmer in total IDGAF mode.  Kilmer stumbles through the flashbacks, complete with messy hair and a look of genuine snarky bemusement on his face.  Kilmer gives such a weird and self-amused performance that his brief scenes are the highlight of the film.

Before it was released, The Snowman was hyped as a potential Oscar contender.  After the movie came out and got roasted by the critics, director Tomas Alfredson replied that the studio forced him to rush through the production and that 10 to 15% of the script went unfilmed.  Considering Alfredson’s superior work on Let The Right One In and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.  The film’s disjointed style would certainly seem to back up Alfredson’s claim that there was originally meant to be more to the film than actually ended up on the screen.

The Snowman is one of those films that doesn’t seem to be sure what it wants to be.  At times, it aspires to David Lynch-style surrealism while, at other times, it seems to be borrowing from the morally ambiguous crime films of Taylor Sheridan.  Ultimately, it’s a confused film that doesn’t seem to have much reason for existing.  At the same time, I’ve also been told that the Jo Nesbø novel upon which the movie is based is excellent.  The same author also wrote the novel that served as the basis for 2011’s Headhunters, which was pretty damn good.  So, read the book and ignore the film.

The TSL’s Daily Horror Grindhouse: Long Time Dead (dir by Marcus Adams)


key_art_long_time_dead

Am I the only person in the world who likes the 2002 British horror film, Long Time Dead?

I sometimes think that I may be.  Whenever I mention the film to anyone, they either say they’ve never heard of it or they kind of roll their eyes.  I have yet to read a positive review online.  Long Time Dead has only got a 4.9 rating at the imdb, which is saying something because usually even the worst of films can still manage to score at least a 6.0.

So, I guess it’s true.  I guess only I like Long Time Dead.

Now, I should clarify that, just because I like a movie, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s very good.  Long Time Dead is definitely a flawed film.  This is one of those films where an evil spirit — in this case, a fire demon known as a djinn — pursues a group of friends, killing them one-by-one.  There are eight friends, which seems to be a bit excessive for a 94 minute film.  We’re never quite sure how all of these characters got to know each other in the first place.  Some of them appear to be college students.  Four of them share a flat.  Another one lives on a boat.  And as for the other three, they appear to all live in the same building but still, you’re never really sure how everyone is related.

What’s odd is that we only really get to know five of the eight characters, which again leads the viewer to wonder why we needed the other three.  We know that Spencer (James Hillier) is perpetually stoned and that all of this is kind of his fault because he’s the one who suggested that the group should use a Ouija board to try to contact a spirit.  We know that his girlfriend, Lucy (Marsha Thomason), knows about the supernatural and, for some reason, lives on a boat.  We know that Liam (Alec Newman) was traumatized when his father murdered his mother.  We know that Liam’s girlfriend, Annie (Melanie Gutteridge), has asthma.  We know that Rob (Joe Absolom) appears to be a nice guy.  And then there’s Webster (Lukas Haas), Stella (Lara Belmont), and Joe (Mel Raido), who don’t really have any reason for being in the movie.

(Seriously, what is respected Texas character actor and friend-of-Leonardo-DiCaprio Lukas Haas doing in a low-budget British horror film?)

At first, we’re led to believe that the djinn is killing people because it’s upset that it was dragged out of its world by the Ouija board.  But, as the film progresses, we learn that the djinn has a personal score to settle with one of his potential victims.  We also learn that someone may or may not be possessed by the djinn.  It’s all a bit too much to keep track of.  I’ve read rumors that Long Time Dead was a difficult production and the fact that the film has seven credited writers might provide a clue as to why the film is such a narrative mess.

And yet, despite all of that, I still like Long Time Dead.

Why?

The reason is very simple.

The movie scared me.

Maybe it was because I was watching it late at night and I had the lights out or maybe it was because, as an asthmatic, I related to poor Annie but Long Time Dead scared the Hell out of me the first time I saw it.   Not only is the film full of effective jump scenes but the djinn is a terrifying monster.  He’s relentless, ruthless, and merciless.  I think what truly scared me is that the djinn would attack anyone anywhere.  There was literally nowhere that you could hide from it.

Long Time Dead is no classic but it still made me scream.