Viewing two Johnny Berchtold films back to back was a surprisingly early-year double feature that I had never expected to occur. Unfortunately, Dog Gone was definitely the better of the two. Snow Falls establishes a tense atmosphere, but then quietly squanders it the deeper the film goes. The characters aren’t anything special either, punctuated by lapses in logic and frustratingly simple solutions to many various problems. Snow Falls cannot seem to decide whether it wants to be a full-on supernatural horror, or to emulate Frozen’s brand of psychological torment. In the end, its ambiguous nature harms more than helps.
A snowy, atmospheric opening set to a creepy score immediately immerses us in the atmosphere of Snow Falls, an alleged resort-style getaway. Our motley cast of characters are headed out for the family cabin of River (Berchtold)—is anyone surprised to learn that it is virtually in the middle of nowhere, with “spotty” cell service? River’s dad (Patrick Fabian) video chats for just enough time to make sure the kids won’t be dripping hot tub water on his floors, or breaking his mother’s expensive china. Cell phone reception only happens throughout when it’s convenient for the plot, so don’t expect any further scenes with either of River’s parents.
The characters are most definitely caricatures. One can spot the final girl from a mile away, but just in case it isn’t painfully obvious, there is only a single person here constantly spouting random cold-related medical terminology, or comparing their situation to Russian sleep deprivation experiments. Kit (Colton Tran) has ADD, and constantly makes bad jokes. Em (Victoria Moroles) is barely developed, a shadow of her boyfriend who is constantly turning down his advances. Andy (James Gaisford) is vain and self-obsessed, spending his idle time Face-tuning photos and building up his brand. Eden (Anna Grace Barlow) still has trauma from her mother’s untimely sickness and death, and has been recently dumped because her boyfriend couldn’t handle it. River spends most of his time pining over Eden when he isn’t cooking up conspiracy theories or rushing to put coasters down under their drinks.
Just after the ball drops during their little New Years celebration, they hear an announcement that a terrible snowstorm is headed their way. To be exact, it is said to be a “bomb cyclone” with blizzard conditions. Before long, the group loses power, and must cuddle together for warmth in front of a fireplace with waning firewood remaining. Food must be rationed, and they all need to stay awake in order to avoid succumbing to hypothermia. This all happens pretty quickly, as they also deduce that the roads are so bad they cannot possibly attempt to leave.
The most frustrating aspect of Snow Falls is that it shows so much promise, only to squander it every time. It plays things too deadly serious to be fun, teasing exciting angles only to quickly move on from them. Each aspect feels half-baked, mainly indicating that little time or care was actually put into this script. An evil snowman, a ghostly hand, contaminated snow—any of these directions at least have an element of enjoyment to them, but none are fully embraced. A throwaway character, Jace (Jonathan Bennett), appears only via video chat, and at one point a horrible-looking icy Snapchat filter effect completely took me out of the movie. He seems to be a total waste.
For a much better snowy delight, seek out Krampus, Better Watch Out, or even the uber-cheesy Jack Frost films. Snow Falls features the ingredients for a good time, but fails miserably every time it is asked to go above the bare minimum. This cast deserves better material. If one doesn’t feed the mind, it starts feeding on itself—what then is the mind supposed to feed on once the credits roll for Snow Falls?
Book your stay in Snow Falls when the film freezes over On Demand and Digital on Tuesday, January 17th.