LET IT SNOW
Directed by Stanislav Kapralov
Drawing first blood this year, having the honours of being the first new film I’ve seen, is Let It Snow. From writer/ director Stanislav Kapralov, this horror-thriller takes stalk and slash from the suburbs and woods up to Georgia’s spectacular, snowy peaks. An isolated part of the world, with nobody for miles and views to die for.
Visiting this destination are Mia (Sakhno) and Max (Hafner) – two thrill-seekers looking to hurtle themselves down the mountains on little bits of wood and fibreglass in the name of adventure. Max is also looking to propose on an especially hazardous bit called the Black Ridge. However, from the moment a scary receptionist shows them to their room and later draws a cross on the door, it’s clear things won’t go to plan. Once up there, the couple soon finds themselves separated and at the mercy of a masked snowmobile rider intent on turning the snow red.
The film’s main problem is that none of its characters are especially interesting or layered, making for a fun but lightweight viewing experience. There are attempts to add some emotional stakes, with the narrative being interrupted by clips from the same lovey-dovey flashback, as the young couple plan a life together. Though there isn’t much to make them seem unique and, aside from some wink-wink banter about horror movies, I found them difficult to identify with. We get a little backing story for Mia, our protagonist, shoehorned in with an unnatural speech about how much she misses her parents. But other than this her personality is as blank as the miles of snow around her. Fortunately, Sakhno goes way beyond the material – delivering an excellent physical performance. So as a showcase of her talents it works, despite the simple script.
The faceless approach to characterisation extends to the masked villain, whose thin motivation has a ‘that’ll do’ quality about it. He isn’t the iconic boogeyman this kind of film needs, and also isn’t granted enough depth for audiences to empathise with him throughout. He also doesn’t seem particularly fierce, with very little onscreen violence and a tiny body count. There are still moments of tensions here and there. For instance, the night sky outside the hotel room getting broken by a snow mobile’s lights is a good harbinger of horror to come. Likewise, there’s a wonderful avalanche moment in which both Mia and the camera are overwhelmed by the white stuff.
This second scene is gratifying because the movie also just about makes snowboarding look so much fun earlier on – a welcome reminder of the risk they are taking on. Moreover, despite the film taking its name from a happy song which sounds predictably scary later sung slowly by a child, it doesn’t fulfil too many slasher cliches. The characters don’t make any terrible decisions, beyond going in the first place. The survivalist angle, combined with the impressive cinematography, also gives Let It Snow a grittier feel than I was expecting. It isn’t quite The Revenant, though it’s occasionally visually awe-inspiring. Still, come the end it’s neither frightful nor delightful enough to be memorable. The action is forgettable, and what passes as a final confrontation feels unearned and unsatisfying.
LET IT SNOW is available on VOD.