Three years have no passed since COVID-19 plunged the world into unprecedented lockdowns and isolation. While the pandemic persists, more movies are releasing that either directly work the events into their narrative or implicitly explore themes of isolation, paranoia, and infection. The latest indie horror movie to hit VOD platforms this week, Snow Falls, lands in the latter category. Actor, director, and writer Colton Tran mix the familiar (isolated cabin) with some more contemporary-themed horror revolving around infection. Whether Snow Falls fully nails its unique premise remains up in the air – few, if any, formal reviews exist at the moment.
Five college friends take a weekend getaway to a remote cabin for drinks and good times. Shortly after their arrival, however, a massive winter storm cuts them off from the outside world. When the power goes out, the cold slowly creeps into the cabin and the dangers of hypothermia become increasingly real. Soon the dark, cold, and isolation chips away at their sanity and the friends begin to fear that something in the snow itself is contaminating them.
Snow Falls Can’t Quite Balance Its Mix of Psychological Thriller and Horror
In spite of its relatively trim runtime of 79 minutes, Snow Falls feels much longer. Writer and director Colton Tran – along with co-writers Luke Genton and Laura M. Young – tease an interesting premise built into a story about isolation that should still resonate following the pandemic. Other horror movies, including 10 Cloverfield Lane and They Look Like People, have built stories around the ‘possibility’ of the supernatural as an integral part of their mystery. For a few reasons, however, Snow Falls never sticks the landing. That is, Tran struggles juggling the movie’s psychological thriller thread with the more overt horror elements. An immediate problem that emerges is that too little happens – even in a movie this short. Long stretches of nothing define big chunks of time. By the climax, Snow Falls has little momentum on its side.
From an early point in Snow Falls, most viewers will figure out what’s going on.
In addition, Tran never really commits to the hints of supernatural teased in his premise. From an early point in Snow Falls, most viewers will figure out what’s going on. It doesn’t help that the more explicit elements are clumsily staged or just underwhelming. In particular, one scene with a snowman outstretches its budget to the point of drastically undercutting any mood or suspense. While the horror elements don’t often work, Tran isn’t able to craft the kind of tension necessary to truly feel compelling as a psychological thriller. As compared to a movie like Frozen (not the Disney version) where the danger feels real, the isolation and cold in Snow Falls often feels forced.
Snow Falls Chilled By Weak Screenplay and Underdeveloped Characters
If the tension in Snow Falls feels forced, it’s often because much of the story relies on its characters doing stupid things. Ignore the CGI-crafted breath on the cold air – you can’t fault an indie horror for a modest budget. Rather the problem lies in the screenplay itself. Yes, college students would absolutely stock up on alcohol for a weekend getaway. But the speed at which the group goes from partying to absolute peril feels forced. No food? No emergency generator or fuel? A cabin with no firewood or ability to produce firewood? And with five people, was it necessary for everyone to immediately skip on sleep? While it’s often easy to gloss over some implausible moments for the sake of enjoyment, a movie still needs to live on some internal consistency. Unfortunately, Snow Falls relies heavily on a generous amount of suspension of disbelief.
…much of the story relies on its characters doing stupid things.
Moreover, Snow Falls never really develops its own characters in spite of the time it spends with them or its intent on focusing on psychological suspense. For example, Tran et al. spend quite a bit of time establishing the main character Eden’s (Anna Grace Barlow) personal loss, but never significantly factor into the climax. It’s a superficial treatment of the character and, by and large, Barlow’s ‘Eden’ spends much of the thriller advising her peers how to cope with hypothermia. Much of Snow Falls is comprised of expository dialogue. As for the rest of the cast, no stands out in either a good or bad way. To be fair, it’s not the fault of the cast. Rather the screenplay renders its characters as little more than two-dimensional tropes.
Snow Falls Can’t Quite Thaw Itself Out of Its Own Flaws
Maybe Snow Falls tries to be too many things but, by the time the final credits roll, it’s dissatisfying on all counts. As a psychological thriller exploring the effects of isolation and paranoia, Tran can’t quite achieve the desired tension in part because of the half-hearted teases at supernatural happenings. It doesn’t help that Tran tips his hand far too early on these horror elements. And Snow Falls’ ambitions outreach what it can put on screen. But the characters are also too underdeveloped to make the movie’s more psychological undertones work. Pacing problems only exacerbate these issues. Though it’s watchable, Snow Falls likely won’t make much of an impression.