FANGORIA’s Stream to Scream: “SNOWMAN’S LAND”
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Tomasz Thomson’s dark comedy SNOWMAN’S LAND.
As the most recent addition to FANGORIA’s Hulu channel, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from SNOWMAN’S LAND. Having never previously heard of the film, my only preconceptions came from the vaguely sinister poster and an equally ambiguous title. So imagine this writer’s surprise when the film veered away from a conventional horror set-up, revealing itself to be a dark, twisted and bloody comedy grounded in captivating visuals and truly affecting performances.
As if it wasn’t clear, those looking for a horror show may want to steer clear of SNOWMAN’S LAND, as the only real sense of fright comes from implications of danger rather than routinely gruesome madness. The film has a few good ‘n bloody moments throughout— including one memorable survival of a point blank shotgun blast—and at times, the unconventional nature of the film veers into hallucinatory territory, but SNOWMAN’S LAND is more concerned with providing dry humor and building character, playing more akin to a snowbound variation of IN BRUGES rather than a straight-laced horror movie.
The beginning of the film does plant the seeds of a genre experience however, between the remote location of a mysterious job provided by a seemingly once-dead colleague and a brief appearance of foreboding stalkers in a forest. But as it proceeds, SNOWMAN’S LAND dials back the horror to an absolute minimum by focusing the story on two socially maladjusted criminals at odds with an impulsive crime boss while residing at his secluded mansion. The aura of desolation, peppered with karmic justice, seeps through every frame of the film, while the narrative manages to craft characters endearing in their perpetually bad luck.
SNOWMAN’S LAND may not be a traditional horror film, but that doesn’t mean the empty, lifeless surroundings of the films’ protagonists makes for any less of a dread-infused experience. This German production benefits the most from writer/director/editor Tomasz Thomson and cinematographer Ralf M. Mendle, working in synchronicity to deliver an appropriately bizarre undertone to their bleak odyssey. Thomson certainly understands the atmospheric needs of a comedy about murderers and low lives, allowing Mendle and production designer Thorsten Sabel to establish a distance within the films’ engulfing visuals.
Among the cast, Jurgen Rissmann and Thomas Wodianka make for an excellent, funny duo as the misguided miscreants, delivering emotionally resonating performances with radically different characters on the common grounds of desperation and humanity. Alternately, Reiner Schone offers a pitch perfect portrayal of an intimidating and ruthless antagonist, adding unexpected delicacy and vulnerability to the standard drug lord archetype. The film is almost single-handedly stolen by Eva-Katrin Hermann as the seductive and ultimately dangerous girlfriend of the drug lord however, balancing sexiness and silliness even when her situation is dire.
As a story, SNOWMAN’S LAND is intriguing, hilarious and occasionally creepy, even if its connection to horror is more tangential than intentional. Still, the film uses genre-influenced narrative devices and bloody outbursts of violence to great effect, even if its core goal is to elicit laughs rather than gasps. It’s a dark flick, likely playing best for fans of wicked and patient comedy, but those looking for amusement over dismemberment may find a comfortable middle ground in SNOWMAN’S LAND.