The Snowman


I f there’s something strange in your Norway Wood, who ya gonna call? Harry Hole. There are days in which I really wish I were making this up. Nope, this is not a joke; the “Go-To” detective for all your bizarre Norwegian murder spree needs is the ineffective, inattentive, alcoholic, chain-smoking gumshoe snowshoe Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). His cases are “being taught at university.” What university would that be, exactly? Is it the same one where McGruff the Crime Dog minored in Leash Law?

The Snowman is difficult to describe because at first it seems like a perfectly normal police procedural, and then nothing makes sense. Ok, let’s begin at the beginning: Flashback to a bastard kid abused and abandoned by his father in a remote snow cabin. Dad just popped in for a little mom abuse, a little child abuse, and then he’s gone. Mom decides she’s had enough, and chases after the guy for a while before finally deciding to drive straight onto a frozen lake … and this is how a bastard becomes an orphan. I assume this is our future serial murderer, but who knows?

Back in our century, Harry Hole investigates the disappearance of a mother who may or may not have been having an affair. I mention that last part because it may or may not have some bearing on her disappearance; the film wasn’t clear. Harry talks to the single child (which may or may not have some bearing on the case), and establishes himself early as a fellow who may well be kind, but doesn’t seem especially intuitive. While he’s playing tea party with the surviving child, the camera finds the killer’s calling card: an ugly two-tier Snowman.

I assume that when we start seeing bodies, The Snowman trigger will start making sense. HA!  One thing the anonymous murderer is really good at is slicing. Sometimes there’s a corpse with no head; sometimes there’s a head with no corpse; sometimes a body is diced up like sushi for no distinguishable reason. For the latter, The Snowman introduces Val Kilmer as Detective Rafto. This is the very nadir of Kilmer’s career and there isn’t a close second. First, he looks terrible. Second, the film is edited so poorly, we don’t catch on that this is a flashback until his third or fourth time on screen. Third, and most importantly, it’s not his voice. Kilmer has been dubbed, poorly. And the film knows it screwed these scenes up, so it had Kilmer say next-to-nothing while he’s on screen – which is the standard M.O. of detective on screen discovering a mangled body, is it not? If there is any part of you that loved Real Genius or Top Secret! or even Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, I beg you not to see The Snowman. Not even on a dare or a bet; you cannot unwatch Val Kilmer’s awful.

Mostly, I just can’t tell what’s going on in this film. Fassbender seems to be investigating, then he sort-of lays off and lets Rebecca Ferguson do the dirty work. He’s wrapped up in an ex- (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son, but commits himself to none of the above. This being a Norwegian film, I wanted to shout “A-ha!” when Harry unHoles a big clue. So needless to say, his odds and ends and bumbling away, slowly learning this screenplay sucks A … all made me want, instead, to shout “Take Off, Eh! (take off, eh).” Yeah, wrong cold country. Ice bite me.

Not to be confused with the lovely children’s book by Raymond Briggs, The Snowman has all the trappings of a normal film – even possibly a thrilling one — with a cat-and-moose game between murderer and detective. In the spirit of the Halloween release date, this is all a trick. Whatever benefits one gets from a director with good handle on snow are more than compensated by a film edited by using The Force. The Snowman is confusing, dull, silly, and has the greatest “oh, you’ve got to be shitting me” reveal in, easily, the past ten years. I’d like to spoil it, but on second thought, I’ll just wait until spring when it will melt away, never to be seen or heard from again.

♪Slicey the Snowman
Was an angry hateful troll
With a switchblade knife 
And some cryptic prose
And a soul made out of coal

Slicey the Snowman
Met Michael Fass one day
And he said “you’re blessed,
But I’m not impressed
And this film will make you pay”♫

Rated R, 119 Minutes
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Writer: Peter Straughan and Hossein Amini and Søren Sveistrup
Genre: Cold Case
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: The story-boarder, maybe? Perhaps The Snowman made sense at that stage
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: Snowmen

♪ Parody Inspired by “Frosty the Snowman”

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