‘’Serial killer’’ is not the first thing I think of when I here ‘’snowman’’, my first thought is ‘Frosty’’, but don’t fear for your childhood, Frosty hasn’t become a sadistic murderer. (Although that would make for a much more interesting plot twist, and what court would convict Frosty?)
Based on the novel by Jo Nesbo, the story follows Norwegian detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender). Let’s run down the list, Harry is: an alcoholic (check), chain smoker (check) and a deadbeat father (big ol’ check-a-roo) so congratulations’ Harry- you’ve been awarded Generic Noir Protagonist of the year. And of course he’s also a ‘’legend’’ around Oslo PD, so the titular serial killer sends him a letter taunting him about all the killing he’s about to do.
Assigned together with new transfer Katherine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), Harry investigates a missing person’s case, a wife and mother kidnapped and the perp left a snowman outside the victim’s house. After some spending some time with his estranged son Oleg, Harry and Katherine get a tip on another victim, and find her decapitated, with her head placed atop a snowman.
With this new victim, Katherine begins to put together a psychological profile on the killer, he apparently targets women he disapproves of, women with fertility issues or have had miscarriages, and he always leaves his victims on display, and it appears the falling of winter snow sets him off. This line of thinking leads Katherine to suspect a prolific doctor Idar Vetlesen, who has ties with influential philanthropist Arve Stop (J.K. Simmons). Harry meanwhile looks into the apparent suicide of a detective, Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer) who was investigating a similar string of deaths and discovers that they are following the same killer.
As a mystery it’s pretty par the course, it’s not even edge of your seat tense, certainly gory in places but no real substance. The reveal in the third act isn’t worth a spoiler warning and Val Kilmer, J.K Simmons and Toby Jones are all underutilised. Fassbender fills his role to its fullest, but his character is dull and uninteresting, and perhaps the biggest sin is we never get clear reasons for why the killer does what he does and instead gives us some vague motive that’s really unsatisfying.
(is it wrong that I almost wish it was Frosty the snowman?).
By Daniel Murphy