It would be easy to dismiss The Snowman as the standard troubled production that couldn’t be saved in post (three-time Oscar winner editor Thelma Schoonmaker notwithstanding). Alas, the outcome is so uniquely weird -disjointed, beautiful, nonsensical- it’s kind of fascinating how this movie came to be.
Based on Jo Nesbø’s Harry Hole series, The Snowman pits the titular detective (Michael Fassbender) against a serial killer who targets adulterous women. The maniac enjoys taunting his pursuers with childlike notes commenting on their investigation (he doesn’t think highly of it). As the bodies begin to pile up, Hole finds a link between the killings and a decade-old unsolved murder involving Norwegian captains of industry.
While mostly a plot-driven thriller, The Snowman is also a character study. Harry Hole is an alcoholic whose level of self-loathing is so high, he would rather alienate those who love him than give domesticity a try. The film fails to integrate both threads and, for most of the movie, the family drama feels not only disconnected, but unnecessary.
The Snowman unfolds in stilted fashion. Some of Hole’s decisions are baffling and a number of plotlines go nowhere. Director Tomas Alfredson (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) confessed production was rushed and not all the script was shot. This would explain why so often the story is pushed forward via ADR.
The saddest part about this misfire is all the casualties: The possibility of a Harry Hole franchise, Dion Beebe’s gorgeous cinematography, a cast as deep as underutilized (Chloe Sevigny plays twins and still seems barely there), and -above all- Val Kilmer. On the mend from throat cancer, all of Kilmer’s lines have been noticeably dubbed. The actor’s performance is so over the top, it seems to belong to an entirely different film. His weirdness, however, is strangely compelling and one wishes to see more of him.
There are hints of the Tomas Alfredson that brought us the original Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Let the Right One In. Deeply idiosyncratic characters and potent images can be found here and there, but The Snowman never seems under his control. Two planets.
Harry (Chuck Shamata) is a wealthy dentist who is taking model Diane (Brenda Vaccaro) up to his place in the country. Harry told Diane that there was a big party happening at his place over the weekend.
On the drive up to place Harry lets Diane drive his convertible. They encounter four hoodlums driving in their car and the hoodlums want to race. A chase ensues but the hoodlums end up driving off the road and crashing their car. Harry takes over driving and takes them to a gas station where he leaves his car and takes a station wagon to the his house. The house is a big mansion by a lake. Continue reading “Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Death Weekend”
Rose (Marilyn Chambers) and her boyfriend Hart (Frank Moore) are out driving along the road on his motorcycle when they crash because a car has broken down on the road. Hart is fine but Rose is badly injured in the crash and badly burned.
Rose is taken to the Keloid Clinic for Plastic Surgery where Dr. Dan Keloid (Howard Ryshpan) decides to try a new procedure on Rose to graft new skin on her damaged body. Rose is in a coma for a month after the procedure when she finally comes to. She appears normal but something has changed. The procedure has altered Rose. She now needs blood to survive. Continue reading “Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Rabid”
Five doctors are taking a camping vacation out in the woods. Things start off OK but one night someone steals all their boots except for one pair. The doctor who still has his shoes goes looking for help. That’s when things start to go wrong.
12-year-old Glen (Stephen Dorff) has discovered a geode in his backyard after workers remove a tree. Glen’s friend Terry (Louis Tripp) comes over and they find an even bigger geode.
Glen’s parents go away for a couple of days and leave Glen’s older sister Al (Christa Denton) in charge. She quickly throws a party at the house. While the party is going on Glen and Terry crack open the geode and find a note with an incantation on it which they read. Unbeknownst to them they have opened up a portal or “gate” if you will where little demons have escaped. The creatures slowly start messing with Glen, Terry and Al. Continue reading “Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – The Gate”
It’s the early 1980s and slasher movies are all the craze. In particular seems to be a trend of having the killer murder folks on a holiday. The producers of what was originally titled The Secret decide to try and cash in on the trend and The Secret becomes My Bloody Valentine.
Set in a mining town called Valentine Bluffs where during a Valentine’s Day dance 20 years ago several miners got trapped in the mine due to the negligence of a couple of supervisors who went to the dance. Only one miner survived, Harry Warden, who had to resort to cannibalism to survive and went mad and murdered the supervisors he felt were responsible for the accident. The town hasn’t had a dance until now but someone remembers the horror and Harry Warden might be on the loose. Continue reading “Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – My Bloody Valentine”
After making Cube director Vincenzo Natali wanted to make Splice as his next film but budget and effects restraints forced him to wait until he felt the time was right.
Genetic engineers Clive Nicoli (Adrien Brody) and Elsa Kast (Sarah Polley) work for a company called N.E.R.D. (Nucleic Exchange Research and Development) that wants them to create creatures that they want to use for medical purposes. Clive and Elsa have created a couple of weird creatures called Fred and Ginger which they hope to mate and use create all sorts of proteins for medicine but it’s not enough for them. They want to create a hybrid using human DNA. Continue reading “Aiiieeeee!!! Canada: 31 Days of Horror – Splice”
Harry Dean Stanton, the star of Paris, Texas and Repo Man, and supporting performer in neo-classics like Alien and Pretty in Pink, died last September. He was having a banner year: A part in the Twin Peaks revival and a rare lead role in Lucky.
Stanton’s swan song is rolling across art-houses in Canada. Low-key, loaded with meaning but not devoid of humour, Lucky is so timely, it’s eerie.
The titular character (Stanton) is a fixture in his small community in New Mexico. Lucky describes himself as “alone, not lonely”, but a health scare forces him to reevaluate his place in society and his stance on religion.
The great thing about Lucky is that there is no big drama, no reconciliations, no long-buried secrets. Just a nonagenarian coming to terms with his life decisions. Stanton is not quite his character, but is close enough you can recognize the pathos. Pay no attention to the remarkable supporting cast (David Lynch, Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr. as town denizens). This is Harry Dean’s movie and his command of the screen is remarkable.
In charge of this compelling but obviously complicated endeavor is another character actor, in his debut behind the camera. John Carroll Lynch is the classic “that guy”, one that has found his way into movies by Martin Scorsese (Shutter Island), Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino) and the Coen Brothers (Fargo). You may recognize him as the most likely suspect in David Fincher’s Zodiac or as the deranged clown who frequents American Horror Story.
I had the chance to sit down with John Carroll Lynch in Toronto. A film scholar and self-aware like few of his peers, there is more to Lynch than his hundred supporting roles.
– What were the main logistical challenges of having a 90-year-old as your lead?
– Technically, he was 89. We finished a week before he turned 90. We staggered the schedule because we wanted to make sure he was as fresh as possible. Keep in mind Harry Dean was 89 and there was nothing wrong with him. We had three day weekends, took time between locations. That being said, the shooting was physically and emotionally taxing for him.
– How do you direct Harry Dean?
– He was never going to act, he was always going to be Harry Dean Stanton. That has been his foundational keystone for fifty years. He wouldn’t respond to character or structural notes. It was a way for him to gage if the story was truthful, and whether or not he could live in it. In my experience of watching film actors, nobody had a stronger sense of ‘being in film’ than Harry Dean Stanton. The Straight Story wouldn’t work without his performance, no matter how good Richard Farnsworth is in it. The emotional impact of the film is in the last five minutes and, without Harry Dean’s ability to go from vendetta to regret to forgiveness to love in five minutes without saying anything, it wouldn’t work.
– What was about this story that made you want to direct it?
– I’ve been trying to leverage myself into the director’s chair for a while and this one came together. What attracted me about the script was the idea of a man realizing he may not have many years left. To get to a place of resolution, he didn’t have to reconnect with a child, jump from a plane or tame a bronco. He just changed his perception of his own life and discovered he was not alone: The town he kept himself separate from had actually been holding him up this whole time. Lucky felt more real to me because it’s an interior journey people actually experience.
– Given your experience working with Scorsese, Fincher and the Coens, what best practices did you learn that you applied in Lucky?
– The thing I appreciate about all the masters I worked with is that they no longer worry about how to do this. They just want to tell a story, and the ‘how’ is based on the ‘why’ and the ‘what’. That is an actionable approach. I’m not quite there, but it’s something to aspire to.
– Both you and Harry Dean have been described as “character actors”. How do you feel about the term?
– I embrace it. It hasn’t hurt me at all. For many people, being a “character actor” means you are not going to get laid in the movie, there won’t be a romantic interest of any kind, and if there is one, it’s abhorrent in some way. You wear overalls and play a lot of cops. I don’t think the term means much of anything nowadays, except in the relationship with the audience. If they recognize you -your face and not your name- they know they are in good hands.
– Do you think Harry Dean knew this was his final performance?
– Absolutely not. He saw Lucky for what it was, not an elegy but a celebration. I don’t think he knew if he was going to work again, but by choice not because of death: He was a guy who wanted to do nothing and rest after.
Lucky opens Saturday 14th at the Broadway Theatre.
The success of John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween created a surge of slasher films in the 1980s. In 1980 two slasher films hit the big screen only a few months apart. The first was Friday the 13th and second is today’s 31 Days of Horror feature – Prom Night.