Sometimes, you rush to a theater to see what could be one of the best movies of the year. Other times, that hype is just as intense, only it’s for the exact opposite reason: because you need to see what could be the worst movie of the year. This weekend was one of those times thanks to The Snowman, a movie starring Michael Fassbender and a collection of goofy-looking snowmen. A few brave souls rushed to the theater to see it; here are their thoughts.
1. What is your tweet-length review of ‘The Snowman’?
Lindsay Zoladz: The most boring, inexplicably low-budget episode of NCIS I have ever seen.
K. Austin Collins: … Charlotte Gainsbourg? Is that you?
Richard Wolff: A heartwarming movie about a frozen lake’s redemptive journey.
Alison Herman: I would like to thank the subscription service MoviePass for ensuring that I didn’t have to spend a dime of my hard-earned money on this film.
Kate Halliwell: It’s like newlyweds Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender decided to have a Bad Movie–Off in 2017 with Tulip Fever and The Snowman. And Fassbender won.
2. What was the best (or best-worst) part of the movie?
Surrey: Where to begin? A lead detective named Harry Hole; a serial killer calling card of SNOWMEN who have coffee beans for eyes, which is supposed to be terrifying; Val Kilmer appearing in several scenes and having nearly all of his dialogue redubbed by someone else (?!); this weird, almost-sex scene where Charlotte Gainsbourg just sorta gyrates on Michael Fassbender for five seconds and hops off as he stares expressionless; J.K. Simmons as the only cast member attempting a Norwegian accent; a subplot involving Oslo’s bid for the Winter Olympics; Chloë Sevigny playing twin sisters; someone talking about a visit to the “pregnancy doctor”; and the killer addressing the aforementioned Harry Hole as “Mister Police.”
Halliwell: In all seriousness, seeing transgender actress Jamie Clayton play a role—albeit a tiny, pointless one—that didn’t make her identity as a trans woman a big deal was a real highlight. It was refreshing to see her in a part that could have been given to any cisgender actress in Hollywood. Granted, a few lines as some sort of ambiguous computer tech aren’t exactly a big break, but let’s call it progress.
Wolff: The first and last scenes in the movie (ft. a seemingly self-aware frozen lake facing a moral crisis).
Collins: The press tour. It’s rare that a director gets to poison the release of his movie with a healthy dose of “The studio made me do it.” Even better—like, for my health, I’m genuinely enjoying this—is the fact that I’m pretty sure the movie would’ve sucked no matter what the studio did. Did they frame all those shots? Did they write that script? I’m prone to blaming movie studios for literally everything bad in the world—overlong run times! Global warming! The fact that Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t have an Oscar yet!—but The Snowman was, at best, a collective effort.
Zoladz: I did not think the Snowman had the capacity to surprise me—I thought the internet had sufficiently jaded me from any emotion approaching pure awe. And then I heard Hot Butter’s 1972 novelty single “Popcorn” playing in this movie. Twice. For no discernible reason. I have had fever dreams with so much more logic than this film had.
Herman: A tie between the inexplicable melange of British, American, and fake-Scandinavian accents and the obviously fake slap followed by a high-school-theater-production-level pratfall that comes in the first scene, letting the audience know in no uncertain terms what we're about to endure.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Surrey: That I paid money to see it.
Collins: That David Fincher didn’t direct it.
Wolff: The stuff in the middle. Considering that there is exactly one (!) relevant clue in the exposition, it would seem that the bulk of the movie is just an attempt to stretch the concept of a red herring to its logical conclusion. Plot twist: None of the stuff you’ve spent the past hour and a half watching matters!
Herman: Any part where I was forced to think about the actual plot.
Zoladz: Any time I had to look at a corpse with its face blown off, which was strangely often. Luckily, the special effects were way too low-budget to actually disturb me or look like anything more realistic than, like, the original Wolfenstein.
Halliwell: It’s nearly impossible to choose just one, but I have to go with the awkward fight/confrontation scene between Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson, which ends with a full minute of Fassbender lying flat on top of Ferguson and murmuring into her hair. Prior to this movie, I would have said that no one in the world would mind Michael Fassbender lying on top of them for a minute or two. I’d have been wrong.
4. The Unintentional Comedy Award for ‘The Snowman’ goes to ...
Halliwell: The snowmen. We knew from the promotional material alone that they would be ridiculous, but they didn’t disappoint. My personal favorite moment came when Rebecca Ferguson walked by a seemingly innocent snowman on the street; constructed with three large snowballs and a carrot nose, it clearly wasn’t a sign from the killer. No, this was a regular old Frosty. But wait! The camera moves around to the back of the taller snowman, where it’s revealed that his lower half actually is the signature shorter snowman favored by the killer. It’s just facing backward, like a Christmas-y spin on Voldemort and Professor Quirrell. (If this explanation doesn’t make sense, just trust me—neither does the scene.)
Herman: When Charlotte Gainsbourg straddles Michael Fassbender for no apparent reason, gets up after making out (or having sex? It's unclear) with him for like two seconds, and Fassbender lies perfectly still, corpse-like, the entire time.
Wolff: Harry Hole’s name.
Surrey: Director Tomas Alfredson, who acknowledged his movie was a complete mess and said that he couldn’t film the entire script before release: “It’s like when you’re making a big jigsaw puzzle and a few pieces are missing so you don’t see the whole picture.”
A very meta Harry Hole even warned him, at one point saying, “You can’t force the pieces to fit.” Eye-opening stuff from the great Harry Hole!
Zoladz: The ad campaign. Have these people never seen a Drake album cover?
5. The Snowman Killer claims to have left Mister Police (Michael Fassbender) many clues. To the best of your ability, answer the following question: What were those clues?
THE SNOWMAN DIDN’T EVEN LEAVE MISTER POLICE ANY CLUES, LITERALLY ZERO. I LOVE HOW BAD THIS MOVIE IS HOW IS IT EVEN REAL— Miles Surrey (@HKSurrey) October 22, 2017
Herman: If there were any, they'd have been painstakingly documented on the newfangled police IT this movie spent 10 minutes of screen time trying to explain!
Halliwell: Well, he got one letter at the beginning of the movie. It wasn’t really a clue, just a cryptic message. As far as I can remember, that was it. Zodiac, this movie is not.
Wolff: That conversation they had on the train that was sort of about fatherhood and stuff. The coffee beans in that one picture. Being a really nice guy.
Zoladz: I … completely forgot this was the Mister Police movie until I left the theater and saw a poster for it on my way out. I was promised SO many more clues.
Collins: He’s literally a psychopath and we’re taking him at his word that he gave us hints?
6. Let’s talk about Val Kilmer in this movie.
Zoladz: The best part of seeing a bad move in the theater is determining the moment the audience completely gives up on it, en masse. In my showing (and I’d imagine most others), this happened when Val Kilmer (playing a character named GERT RAFTO) first appeared on screen and started talking. I’ve seen Fellini movies dubbed more seamlessly than the flashback scenes in The Snowman.
Surrey: OK, so there’s a reason Val Kilmer probably didn’t speak in this movie: He was dealing with a swollen tongue from a “healing of cancer.” I’m glad Kilmer is fine now, but why was he cast in the movie if he couldn’t speak?
Still, you have to admit it adds to The Snowman’s magic. His scenes don’t even make much sense; in one of them he just starts drinking at work and hops out of his office window and pretends the bottle he’s drinking out of is his penis. Oh, and in the next scene the Snowman Killer blows Kilmer’s head off with a shotgun, with zero setup. Also, Rebecca Ferguson (who sadly, yes, is in this movie) is his daughter! You could mad-lib the plot of The Snowman and it would make more sense than The Snowman.
Herman: Everyone's talking about the terrible ADR when they should REALLY be talking about his blatantly CGI'ed corpse. I'm pretty sure real gunshot wounds are less … clean?
7. Where does ‘The Snowman’ rank in the Good Bad Movie Pantheon?
Halliwell: I’d put it right between nos. 39 and 40—it’s more rewatchable than Battleship, but less rewatchable than Julia Stiles busting a move in Save the Last Dance.
Herman: Every Good Bad movie is Good Bad in its own special way. This one just happened to involve dancing mold exterminators.
Surrey: The Snowman needs to be mounted as an installation at the Louvre and played on an infinite loop. It’s an avant-garde triumph of awful cinema.
Wolff: Hands down, takes the cake in the “Doing the Least With the Most” category.
Zoladz: That was what ultimately disappointed me: It’s just a bad-bad movie, a tedious viewing experience that isn’t even fun to laugh at. Coincidentally, I watched The Snowman the same week as The Book of Henry—as we all are, I am living my best life in 2017—and thought the latter was a worthy new entry into the Good Bad Movie Pantheon. Mister Policeman, not so much.
Collins: Wow, no. Surely no one thinks this belongs anywhere in the ballpark of the gloriously grotesque Showgirls or even the grotesque but less glorious Spice World? Those are, like, actual movies. Let’s save the Pantheon discussion for the Hairy Hole porn parody, which will undoubtedly be a better movie.