Wow. The biggest gift provided to me by Snow White: A Deadly Summer was the lie on the back of the DVD box. It turns out “approximately 90 minutes” actually means “77 minutes”, and I was extremely grateful to learn I’d be able to spend that 13 minutes of my life doing something else.
In all honesty, the film is pretty much unwatchable. In this version Shanley Caswell plays the titular heroine, who now is sent off to a disciplinary camp by her evil stepmother, Eve (Maureen McCormick). Despite some reluctance on the part of her father (Eric Roberts), she is shipped off to this pseudo-bizarre location after a joyride with a male companion in a stolen car.
Once there, she encounters a new makeshift family of misfits (not dwarves, sadly) who are to learn the rules of discipline from their hard-ass instructors played by Tim Abell and Jason-Shane Scott. In the process she strikes a potentially romantic rapport with Cole (Chase Bennett) that never really goes anywhere. The other relationships/alliances forged at the camp are either somewhat combative or downright acrimonious. Suffice to say, the dynamic established is stock to such a ridiculous degree that it can only be read as contempt for the audience.
It’s kind of tempting to go into great, laborious detail about some of the horrible choices the film makes here, but for the sake of not spoiling this thing for whoever is watching it, I’ll refrain. I’ll just say that this is a tertiary Snow White story at best. There’s very little content from either the Disney or original Grimm version that gets ported over. I suppose the evil stepmother using her Mac makeup case as her mirror somewhat qualifies, and yes the character’s name is Snow White, but there’s not much else. An apple appears and is eaten to little effect.
More importantly, it’s just not a real movie. It’s one of the ugliest looking films I’ve seen in a while. The acting is across the board atrocious (though I will say that Caswell is heads and shoulders better than anyone here, perhaps she could do good work if partnered with the right director). The narrative is stillborn. The characters, if they can be called that, are grating. We’re dealing with the kind of movie that shoots its night scenes in broad exterior daylight and then slaps a cheap blue filter on them. Which would be one thing if its use were limited, but we’re talking at least 25-30% of the film’s running time. The few instances where night is actually shot for night are rendered downright jarring by this approach – as if we’re getting a feverish glimpse into what this story might look like if told with any modicum of technical proficiency.
It’s the kind of movie where there’s not one single human moment onscreen. Where twists that should be revelatory are rendered inert by the anti-story. Where a major character’s death is explained via flat, emotion-less exposition by the only character in the film that would actually have any emotion regarding it. Where lazy writing, shooting and editorial decisions expect to be tolerated and rewarded.
Disappointing fans of quality and competency alike, there is literally not one person I could recommend Snow White: A Deadly Summer to with a straight face. And for you gore-hounds out there willing to sit through even the most middling tripe to get your fix? Beware – the film is PG13 and goes skimpy on the red stuff. The one and only point I award this film is a courtesy commendation for its brief running time.