Reviewed by Gareth Jones
Starring James Kyson-Lee, George Stults, Tiffany, Penny Drake
Directed by Jason Robert Stephens
Distributed by Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment
Originally released in the US under its alternate title Necrosis, Jason Robert Stephens’ Blood Snow tells the tale of a group of friends who take off to a remote cabin for some wintry R&R. Unknown to them, the cabin stands on the site of the infamous real-life Donner Party massacre – wherein a group of stranded settlers resorted to ferocious murder and cannibalism to survive (and which also formed the basis for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s hilarious Cannibal: The Musical).
Trapped by a snowstorm, our friends run into trouble when Jerry (Heroes’ James Kyson-Lee) begins to see intimidating visions of the Donner Party ghosts and, even worse, starts to heed their murderous warnings. Considering he is already on medication for psychotic episodes, the audience is left to consider whether the ghouls are in fact real tormentors or a figment of Jerry’s rapidly deteriorating psyche. As Jerry’s paranoia causes him to turn on his friends, the rest are forced into a battle for survival; however, the odds may be supernaturally stacked against them.
Blood Snow is a quick and relatively cheerful slice of psycho-horror which keeps the pace up throughout. The characters are decently drawn, if not completely developed, with most scenes containing enough character beats to keep them distinctive and recognisable. The cast perform sufficiently, though some awkward deliveries tend to grate. This is more often than not a failure of the script, however, with some uncomfortably extended pieces of dialogue and unnatural conversation. In fact, the main problem does lie at script level: The flashback opening of Blood Snow is atrociously written (and acted, too, in the only scene where the skill of anyone in front of the camera truly comes into question) and poorly paced. The film tries to take the route of Kubrick’s The Shining with Jerry in the Jack Torrence role but simply doesn’t have the necessary chops to pull it off. Instead, it ends up as a very middle of the road piece of work. Inoffensive, but certainly not impressive by any means.
In terms of gore, Blood Snow is actually quite light — eschewing over-the-top violence in favour of a few meaty shotgun squibs and mutilated ghosts. Speaking of the ghosts: They’re pretty damn cool! The stand-out ghost moment comes with Jerry trying to keep calm as he spies a frozen, white-eyed and axe-wielding phantom trudging towards him through the snow. It’s a chillingly effective image. It’s also good to see that the majority of the gore effects are all physical, adding a nice weight to the buckshot that multiple characters take at the hands of their nutbag friend. The only CGI readily spied is some snow which is at times laughably implemented and serves to reinforce the mediocrity of the flick.
The score is simple and relatively generic for the genre but works well. Visually Blood Snow presents some great looking scenery but otherwise plays it quite flat in terms of cinematography. Stephens’ direction is, for the most part, just fine (if occasionally dropping the ball in terms of suspense), but when things go wrong, they really go wrong. One particular scene sees a character “fall” down a snowy “ravine”, which consists of a hilariously melodramatic and badly edited roll down what appears to be the shallowest six-foot incline the filmmakers could have found. Hell, a small child would have had no problem rolling down that, for fun!
Blood Snow does try its best to be a chilling piece of supernaturally inspired psycho-drama but lacks the spark needed to really take off. While the short runtime keeps things moving, it’s also a blessing as any superfluous additions may have made it much less appealing. The ambiguous nature of the antagonist’s psychosis is a plot device that, personally, I do enjoy; and it’s done well here. The entire package, though, has far too many loose seams to truly allow a recommendation.
Kaleidoscope’s DVD release includes a couple of trailers and a 30-minute behind-the-scenes featurette containing some entertaining candid footage from the shoot. It’s good fun and certainly keeps you involved for the runtime so makes a worthy addition.
2 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5
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