Colton Tran’s feature directorial debut, Snow Falls has sneaked into Collider’s list of most anticipated 2023 horror movies with a killer premise. The movie follows a group of friends who decide to celebrate New Year’s Eve in a cabin far away from civilization. As the title indicates, they are caught in a snowstorm that forces them to fight for survival. With no phone reception, electricity, or means to ask for help, the friends must find ways to keep warm while their sanity slowly deteriorates. Meanwhile, they wonder if their strange visions are the fruit of their dire condition, or if something evil is hidden in the snow. With such an interesting concept, Snow Falls could have walked different paths by either embracing the supernatural or exploring the human drama amidst isolation. Unfortunately, the movie does neither.
By now, the cabin-in-the-woods horror subgenre has been done to exhaustion, to the point where Cabin in the Woods brilliantly exposed the limits of the trope back in 2011. That clearly indicates that new cabin-in-the-woods movies need to either focus on great character development or add an unexpected spin to the formula. It doesn’t take long for us to realize Snow Falls is not too concerned with its characters, as the movie reduces the five friends’ entire personalities to a single trait. There’s Kit (Colton Tran), who loves to party; Em (Victoria Moroles), paranoid about security and safety measures; Andy (James Gaisford), a wannabe Instagram celebrity; River (Johnny Berchtold), the rich boy whose parents own the cabin; and Eden (Anna Grace Barlow), a med student who just lost her mother to an unknown disease.
It can be useful to simplify characters so that the audience becomes familiar with the entire cast in just a few minutes. That allows the viewer to quickly understand who the characters are and how they’ll probably respond to the horrors to come. Nevertheless, if the goal is to force people to face their fears, at some point, we have to know what makes these characters broader. How did they meet? What history do they have together? What are the emotional stakes? Especially when it comes to confined spaces, a movie must explore its character’s interior universe to make the audience care about them. Snow Falls never goes beyond each character’s shallow personality. Even a story-rich trauma such as Eden’s grief is suggested without becoming a relevant plot point.
With so little attention given to character, one could expect Snow Falls to pour its energy into the scares. Surprisingly, that also doesn’t happen. In fact, for most of its runtime, Snow Falls develops as a slow-burn thriller about humans on the brink, trading their sanity to extend their lives for a few more days and hours. Yes, as the movie’s trailer promised, there are a few supposedly supernatural elements sprinkled all over the story. And the movie puts into question if these elements are inherently evil or just the fruit of broken minds. Sadly, Snow Falls gives away the answer too soon, and there’s no twist to make the plot more interesting further ahead. The movie goes exactly where you think, and the horror is too mild to be effective.
There are some budget issues dragging Snow Falls down. For instance, the digital effects used to represent the warm breath of freezing people are certainly distracting. Still, these issues could be easily forgiven if there was any point in Snow Falls‘ story. As it is, the movie is not scary enough to stand as a pure horror experience, but it also doesn’t have layered characters that can hold together an exploration of the human mind. What’s worse is that for a good chunk of the runtime, Snow Falls pretends to be doing both things simultaneously, which undoubtedly got in the way of hitting the mark for at least the horror or the emotional stakes. In the end, Snow Falls wastes a compelling premise with a dull script, without complex characters or effective scares to elevate the story.
Snow Falls comes to digital and on-demand this February 17.