Review: DVD Release of The Snowman (2017)

2017’s ‘The Snowman’, an adaptation of Jo Nesbo’s 2007 best-seller, met with almost universal derision upon its release.

Now that it has become available for home viewing, I decided to give the supposed-turkey a watch since I recently finished reading the novel. The book rates as one of the most fantastic crime-thrillers of modern times. It has everything you want from the genre; a hard-boiled investigator with a distinctive name, a haunting-noir setting, and a serial-killer with a slightly fantastical but utterly terrifying gimmick. The novel is the very definition of a page turner, with plenty of pop-culture references and detailed research. With such brilliant material, the book has all the content needed to make a fantastic, horrific thriller in the same vein as ‘Seven’ or ‘The Silence of the Lambs’.

My mind was as open as it could possibly be with the adaptation, especially because it can be interesting to like a film that everybody else hates. I was one of the few people who thought that ‘Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice’ and ‘Justice League’ were actually quite merit worthy.

Tomas Alfredson, director of the sensational ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’ brings in acting greats Michael Fassbender, Toby Jones and J.K. Simmons amongst other able cast members. Written by the screenwriters of ‘Drive’ and ‘Tinker Tailor’, the project had all the people attached to it who would surely deliver a top film.

The finished product is quite far from the high-quality work the cast and crew have delivered in the past. The thing is it’s no way near the catastrophe that most critics have made it out to be, but that’s not saying much. Reportedly, 15% of the script was omitted whist filming in Norway, which had to be completed by a new crew a year later in London. Something which can’t have helped a great deal.

Beginning with the positives, the film graphically looks fantastic, capturing the beauty and vastness of the snowy Norwegian landscape with wonderful cinematography from Dion Beebe. Michael Fassbender brings quiet charisma to the role of the alcoholic-chain-smoking detective, Harry Hole. The soundtrack at times is appropriately haunting, complementing the visuals. Beyond these qualities though, the film is staggeringly underwhelming.

The fast-paced quality of the book is thrown away for dialogue-heavy exposition throughout. The book is rife with side-characters who are crucial to the plot, but the film gives very little attention to anyone other than Hole. This creates very little interest in who could be the killer, since each character is so underdeveloped, it’s easy to forget that they are involved in the story at all. This is one of the film’s key problems, characters’ storylines seem to end abruptly without any resolution, and you begin to wonder why they were even explored in the first place.

Many people who didn’t read the novel found the jumping in timelines distracting and confusing. The jumps in time are present in the novel, but are clearly defined and add substance to the overall mystery. When it happens in the film, they occur so briefly and weightlessly that they become irrelevant. Furthermore, the flashbacks are only crucial to a side-story that is addressed very trivially in the film making it seems somewhat pointless. It doesn’t help that we are distracted by a haggard and very weird-sounding Val Kilmer during these sequences.

What was most frustrating for me was that the killer lacked any sort of menace. The book creates a serial-killer that performs gruesome and sadistic murders, whilst creating a tone of dread with his creepy looking snowmen. The book is graphic in many other ways too, which would have made up for some of the other faults in the film by adding a good dose of scares into the mix. The movie’s violence and sexual content are watered down to a boringly lifeless level. Whether or not this was to secure a 15 certificate only adds to the blandness.

In the end, nobody really wins. If you’ve not read the book, you’re going to be very confused and quite likely bored. If you have read the book, you’ll follow the story with ease, but the many disappointing features will leave you wholly dissatisfied and begging for a reboot.


Words by Callum Reid

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