Wow, this movie is an incredible mess. I am going to echo the folks at The Cinema Snob's Midnight Screenings and say this film is such a disaster that I am kind of glad I live in a world where it exists. Where do I start? I know, how about now widely reported admission from Director Tomas Alfredson (Let the Right One In) that he realized while editing the picture that the crew simply forgot to shoot 10 to 15 percent of the script. Yes, that actually happened. Alfredson is no rookie and usually is quite skilled behind the camera, too. His cast here includes Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons and Charlotte Gainsbourg, all of whom look equally lost in this snowy mess. Martin Scorsese even produced this disaster, and his longtime editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, attempted to salvage the film in post to poor results. Based on a popular novel by author Joe NesbÝ, The Snowman is one of the least comprehensible films in recent memory, and should only be viewed as a curiosity.
I am going to dive into spoilers territory in the next few paragraphs in an attempt to explain what a trainwreck made it to theaters. You have been warned. It is somewhat difficult to tell you what the movie is about, because it doesn't know. I started reading NesbÝ's book a few years ago but found the first pages too dense with characters to read on an international flight with a headache. I always intended to pick it back up, but never did. Fassbender plays Detective Harry Hole (...yep, I'm assuming it sounds better in Norwegian), who is tasked with investigating the disappearance of several women during the first snowfall of winter. With a lot of effort, viewers learn Hole is worried a dormant killer known as the Snowman may be active again. That killer had a knack for placing the heads of victims on the bodies of snowmen. That means you are treated to a plethora of unintentionally hilarious shots of snowmen throughout the movie as Alfredson attempts to create dread. Cut to Frosty, aural stinger, me in stitches. It's really bad and completely ineffective.
The comings and goings during the film's 119 minutes are illusory at best. A host of characters pop in and out. I'd hesitate to call them red herrings, as I think some of their resolutions may have been in that chunk of scenes never shot. For example, actress ChloŽ Sevigny pops up long enough to confuse viewers by telling Hole her character has a twin sister. The Snowman then kills her. But what about her twin? Not addressed. Simmons plays a local business magnate pushing for Oslo to host the next Winter Sports World Cup. There is an extended diversion about this World Cup that has absolutely nothing to do with the plot. There is, however, a scene where Simmons' character is portrayed as a human trafficker or at least some kind of wealthy sexual predator. Again, never addressed again. Other peculiarities include the maintenance man at Hole's apartment that comes and goes randomly and Val Kilmer's character Gert Rafto, a disgraced detective still working on a case that eventually ties into the Snowman killings. In a disturbing move, filmmakers dub over Kilmer's voice (terribly), which I assume was the result of complications from his recent health problems.
Hole is an alcoholic, which seems reasonable since it is freezing cold and snowing all the time in the movie. He tries to be a mentor to young Oleg (Michael Yates), the son of ex-girlfriend Rakel (Gainsbourg); now dating a snooty doctor (Jonas Karlsson) who randomly offers to write Hole prescriptions while the pair is on mass transit. The film mostly tells you he is an alcoholic, outside of the early shot where Hole passes out in the street. Like most of the other plot threads, it is barely explored. Character motivations are not expounded upon, and the tick behind the Snowman's tock is simply too convoluted as it unravels here. The Snowman kills people, mostly women, who are caught up in infidelity scandals. When you figure out why, an earlier, bizarre flashback scene at least makes some sense. The Snowman is so bad, so nonsensical and such a waste of talent that I kind of loved it. At least the killer has the decency to make his own exit. This one is not to be taken seriously.
The 1.85:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is strong, and avoids blooming and overblown contrast in the snowy landscapes. Fine-object detail is good, and black levels are steady with strong shadow detail. Texture is abundant in costumes and sets, and wide shots are clean. Other than some minor aliasing, this is an expectedly clean transfer.
The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is agreeably immersive. Blowing snow and environmental effects waft through the surrounds, and bolder, action-oriented effects make great use of sound panning and the subwoofer. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and Marco Beltrami's score is nicely integrated. Lossy Spanish and French 5.1 DTS dubs are included, as are English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This two-disc "combo pack" includes the Blu-ray, a DVD copy and codes to redeem both iTunes and UltraViolet HD digital copies. The discs are packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. The only extras are a couple of EPK featurettes: Cast of Characters (7:46/HD); Creating Joe NesbÝ's World (4:05/HD); The Snowman Killer (4:03/HD); Norwegian Landscape (6:33/HD); and Stunt Files: The Sinking Lake (1:36/HD).
At least the film's director, Tomas Alfredson, was honest about the quality of The Snowman. The filmmakers apparently forgot to shoot 10 to 15 percent of the script during the rushed production period, which results in a mess of a movie that is likely a far cry from the popular source material from Norwegian author Joe NesbÝ. Not even Producer Martin Scorsese and Michael Fassbender in the lead can save this disaster about a detective hunting a serial killer during the first snow of winter. As a curiosity, The Snowman is an interesting trainwreck, but for the majority of readers I recommend Skipping It.