Tomas Alfredson’s Scandinavian crime thriller The Snowman, based on a novel by Jo Nesbø, starts off good ‘n’ creepy, portraying the exact conditions that mark the early lives of many a serial killer. Alas, it slowly unravels into a collection of loose ends, despite the best efforts of Michael Fassbender and Rebecca Ferguson as a dysfunctional team investigating murders in pristine Norwegian towns.
Even before The Snowman's release, Alfredson admitted the film's production was rushed and incomplete, and it shows: Entire plot lines are abandoned. Charlotte Gainsbourg's character does nothing but act confused and wear short skirts without tights in Norway. (NORWAY!) Another character is dispatched with so quickly and unceremoniously that it wasn’t even clear if they were, in fact, dead; another’s death is so drawn out it becomes desensitizing. Meanwhile, Fassbender’s furrowed brow does a lot of the movie’s heavy lifting. It’s capable of a lot, but not carrying an entire movie.
I liked The Snowman just fine—it’s scary, and all the casual detective knitwear looked cozy—but I watch a lot of murder mysteries and have a high tolerance for even the category’s most mediocre entries. This is certainly one of them. But the bones of a more complicated, interesting movie are visible: There’s something fantastically creepy about a murderous weirdo disrupting Alfredson’s cleanly framed, beautifully filmed atmosphere, and some moments—as when we see the first victim attacked—are imbued with a real sense of dread. If you love crime movies so much that you’ll excuse the bad ones, there’s enough here to recommend The Snowman. If you don’t, get back to Mindhunter.