It takes a special kind of movie to make Michael Fassbender look like a bad actor, but somehow, The Snowman accomplishes that feat. Perhaps one of the greatest working actors of our generation, Fassbender is relegated to nothing more than a moronically doe-eyed chain smoker who despite the fact that he constantly has a cigarette in his hand, looks as though he’s never witnessed someone properly light up in his entire life. We’re told he’s an alcoholic, but never given a motive as to why he would’ve turned to the bottle in the first place, or at least hit it so hard that he’d repeatedly wind up lying passed out and drunk in the street. But that’s not surprising. There’s not a whole hell of a lot that makes a lick of sense in this randomly thrown together, terribly written and horribly executed travesty. At best, The Snowman offers up a few laughs, but they’re for all the wrong reasons.
The film starts out in a little isolated cabin, covered with snow and boiling over with abuse and secrecy. A young boy informs his mother that a man has arrived at the door, so she makes herself up in the mirror, shaking all the while. At the kitchen table, the three of them sit uncomfortably as the man quizzes the boy on the history of their country following the aftermath of World War II. For each wrong answer, the man slaps the boy’s mother, eventually hitting her so hard that it sends her flying onto the floor. Instead of helping her back up, the boy scrambles to grab some coffee beans, heads outside, and builds a snowman. The woman threatens to tell the man’s wife about their out-of-wedlock son, and he replies that he’ll simply never show up again. Chasing him out the door, the woman cries, gathering up her child and hopping behind the wheel to follow him down the snowy banks before he disappears forever. At a certain point, the woman lets go of the wheel, dazed, allowing the car to slowly maneuver itself onto a frozen lake, the sheet of ice cracking and giving way beneath her. The boy hops out and urges his mother to do the same, but she simply sits quietly, defeated, and allows the car to pull her down into the icy depths below, abandoning her son and ending her wretched life for good.
Flash forward to twenty-something years later and Harry Hole (Fassbender) is just waking up from another grueling hangover, this time on a children’s frozen playground, eyelids snapping open as an empty bottle slips out of his hand and crashes to the floor. He stumbles back to his home, and then to work, where he is apparently a policeman who has taken a voluntary leave of absence without informing any of his coworkers of his decision. It is at work where he discovers an anonymous letter telling him that someone has been watching him, and all this time while he was sleeping, he was busy building his victim a snowman. Growing delirious and desperate for a case, he teams up with an unlikely female detective named Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), and the two begin investigating a series of strange murders, all women, typically with children, and always with a small snowman built outside, facing the house. It is unclear who the killer is or what his grand plan may be, but one thing’s for sure – someone has turned something jolly and sweet into something cold and sinister.
It’s hard to know where to start when describing the problems with this film. It is astounding that this movie was ever made, let alone released to the public. Every time a snowman appears onscreen, it elicits laughs, not shrieks of terror. The evidence that the police collects points them to a killer who targets families while it’s snowing outside. Grasping at straws doesn’t even begin to describe what a ridiculous lack of a case that comes to be. The flashbacks are unnecessary at best, and strangely moronic at worst – why are they dubbing Val Kilmer’s voice? Who the hell made that decision? – and it’s not just the killer who lacks proper motivation for committing his crimes. Every single character onscreen has a flimsy background, made all the worse by their overdramatic performances, which all together makes the film which should be a dramatic thriller seem like a campy, sloppy, poorly strung together lost film from the archives that people would play for laughs as a midnight movie at a retro theater in Los Angeles. This film is such a mess, it’s hard to even properly describe all of its problems without sounding erratic. There are so many issues, but perhaps the biggest disappointment in all of this is that Thomas Alfredson, the man behind Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the director of his trash fire, making it even more of a let down than it would be by itself considering all of the accomplished actors it has sprawling all over the place within the picture. If you’re looking for a few goofy laughs at a ridiculously smug snowman, then you might get something out of this, but if you like your films to have any sort of consistency, proper performances, or even a storyline that’s somewhat worth following, then stay far away from The Snowman, which might possibly be the worst film of the year so far.