Like you, I saw the trailer for the movie The Snowman and thought: awesome! Creepy and frightening. Then the reviews came in, and they were near-universally negative. Everyone hated it. Still, I figured that I’d see for myself; after all, I’ve really liked a bunch of terrible stuff and loathed some quite popular stuff. I mean, how bad could it be?
Well, The Snowman wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good, either. I’m generally pretty terrible when it comes to guessing the murderer in whodunit-style movies, but I figured out who the villain was less than halfway through. Every actor except for Michael Fassbender was wasted in thankless, minor roles, from Chloe Sevigny to Val Kilmer to J.K. Simmons. I got the impression that the film was the Cliffs Notes version of the novel, with important parts glossed over, red herrings unfished-for, and subplots ignored completely. They did the worst job possible dubbing in Val Kilmer’s lines (I know the man was recovering from cancer treatment, but his two-minute role would have been better played by someone who could talk). Everything seemed freezing cold, but the filmmakers completely eliminated all cultural references to Norway, giving the viewer no sense of place. I was entertained, but not thrilled. I’m sure the book was better. If you’re going to do a Harry Hole movie, why not do another series like Wallander or something and sell it to Netflix?
For a more subtle sort of zombie apocalypse film, you need look no further than Here Alone, which is light on the zombies but heavy on the drama. Much of the movie is focused on protagonist Ann, who lost her husband and child in the chaos of a viral zombie apocalypse and is just doing what she can to survive day to day in the Pacific Northwest. (Like so many of us, I guess.) Lucy Walters as Ann carries the role with a skillful mixture of pathos and bloody-mindedness. Despite having lost everything, she’s a survivor. How she came to be alone is told in flashbacks, some of which are terribly wrenching and hard to watch. Her carefully-balanced existence is, of course, upended when a couple of other people wander in, and things shake out more or less the way you’d expect in a movie like this. If everybody got along, it’d be pretty boring. Nevertheless, there are some surprises here and there, particularly the ending, which makes little sense even with the attempt to bolster character motivations in flashbacks. That was the part I didn’t like so much. Overall, though, I’m glad I watched it. It’s a good movie.
I’ll round out the roundup with another apocalyptic film, The Survivalist. No zombies here: just some kind of dreadful end of civilization catastrophe that may or may not be centered around an environmental event or other. Too much fossil fuels, I guess. Or everyone ate too many Tide pods. Martin McCann plays the unnamed, eponymous Survivalist, a man with a tiny farm in the middle of nowhere. He kills the foragers who come to raid his farm, jerks off into plant seedlings, and doesn’t say a word for the first 17 minutes of the film. Then, as is too often the case, a couple of other people wander in, and his carefully-balanced existence is upended. Whoa. Déjà vu. Anyway, the movie’s a lot better than I’m making it seem. The characters have to make terrible choices: trading sex for a bowl of soup, who to murder and who not to murder, and who’s more important: lover or mother. It’s terribly grim despite the beautiful Irish scenery, with tall grass and meadows and lots of rain. The performances are excellent, with actors conveying great affect in expressions and shared looks. You can’t expect happy endings in movies like this, but perhaps you can hope for a less-terrible tomorrow. Do you get that in The Survivalist? You’ll have to watch it to find out. And you should watch it.