Snow Falls, the feature-length directorial debut of Colton Tran, has snuck onto Collider’s list of the most anticipated horror films of 2023. The film depicts a group of friends who plan to spend New Year’s Eve in a remote cabin.
As the title suggests, they are trapped in a snowstorm and must struggle for survival. Without phone reception, electricity, or a method to ask for assistance, the pals must discover ways to stay warm as their sanity slowly declines.
In the meantime, they ponder whether their weird visions are the result of their sad state or whether the snow conceals something evil. With such an intriguing premise, Snow Falls might have taken either a supernatural or human drama-centered approach to the theme of isolation. Unfortunately, the film does neither of these.
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The cabin-in-the-woods horror subgenre has been overdone to the point that 2011’s Cabin in the Woods masterfully revealed the trope’s limitations. This means that future films about a cottage in the woods must either focus on character development or add an unexpected twist to the premise.
It does not take long for us to recognize that Snow Falls is not overly concerned with its characters, as it reduces the personalities of five pals to a single trait.
There’s Kit (Colton Tran), who loves to party; Em (Victoria Moroles), who is paranoid about security and safety measures; Andy (James Gaisford), an Instagram celebrity who wants to be; River (Johnny Berchtold), whose parents own the cabin; and Eden (Anna Grace Barlow), a medical student whose mother recently passed away from an unknown disease.
It can be good to simplify characters so that the audience can quickly become acquainted with the complete cast. This enables the audience to rapidly comprehend who the characters are and how they will likely react to the impending horrors.
Nonetheless, if the objective is to drive people to confront their concerns, we must eventually determine what makes these characters more complex.
How did they meet one another? What is their past together? What is at risk emotionally? To make the audience care about a character, a film must examine their interior universe, especially in tight locations. Snow Falls never goes beyond the superficial personalities of its characters. Even a story-rich trauma like Eden’s bereavement is implied without becoming a significant plot aspect.
With such little focus on the characters, one may anticipate Snow Falls to focus on the scares. Likewise, surprisingly, this does not occur. Throughout the majority of its running length, Snow Falls is a slow-burning thriller about folks on the verge of insanity who trade their sanity for a few more days and hours of life.
Yes, as advertised in the film’s trailer, the plot has a few purportedly supernatural elements. And the film raises the question of whether these aspects are intrinsically evil or the result of damaged brains. Unfortunately, Snow Falls reveals the solution too early, and there is no plot twist to make the story more engaging. The terror is ineffective and the plot follows exactly what one would anticipate.
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Snow Falls is hindered by a number of budgetary concerns. The computer effects used to simulate the warm breath of freezing people, for instance, are obviously disturbing. Nonetheless, these flaws could be readily overlooked if the plot of Snow Falls had any purpose.
As it stands, the film is insufficiently terrifying to qualify as a pure horror experience, and it lacks the complex characters necessary for an examination of the human mind.
Worse yet, for a significant portion of the film’s running length, Snow Falls pretends to be accomplishing both simultaneously, which likely prevented it from hitting the mark for either the terror or the emotional stakes. In the end, Snow Falls squanders a promising subject with a lackluster narrative, interesting characters, and powerful scares that would have elevated the story.
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