There’s little chance of audiences confusing Swedish director Tomas Alfredson’s The Snowman with the charming animated film that has been a staple of festive TV schedules for more than 30 years.
One is a perfect distillation of childhood wonder torn lovingly from the pages of Raymond Briggs’ picture book, the other is a ham-fisted detective yarn with ice rather than blood in its veins, adapted from a gripping novel by Jo Nesbo.
Based on the seventh installment in a best-selling series featuring Norwegian detective Harry Hole, this clumsily constructed Snowman cannot muster a single flurry of tension over the course of two glacial hours that feel closer to three.
It is hard to believe that the gifted filmmaker, who had us biting nails down to the cuticle with the vampire coming-of-age story Let The Right One In and Oscar-nominated Cold War thriller Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, could be responsible for this pile of snowballs.
A mild case of frostbite might be favourable to shivering with boredom through Alfredson’s anaemic hunt for a diabolical serial killer, who strikes during the first winter snowfall.
Dramatic momentum is frozen solid from the chilly opening frames and Michael Fassbender’s lifeless lead performance as a grizzled detective battling alcoholism fails to thaw our sympathy.
Harry (Fassbender) is at the mercy of his addiction – a disease, which has driven away his girlfriend Rakel (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her teenage son Oleg (Michael Yates).
It’s little wonder Rakel has sought refuge in the arms of a strait-laced and reliable doctor (Jonas Karlsson).
Harry’s toxic relationship with the bottle also negatively impacts his ability to function at work and he craves a complex case to temporarily quell his demons.
“I apologise for Oslo’s low murder rate,” dryly retorts his superior, DCI Gunnar Hagen (Ronan Vibert).
Stumbling into work in a bleary-eyed daze, Harry meets detective Katrine Bratt (Rebecca Ferguson), a recent transfer from Bergen.
They are called to the home of Birte Becker (Sofia Helin), who has vanished shortly after an argument with her husband (James D’Arcy).
A creepy snowman stands facing the Becker house, and a trawl through police archives exhumes a series of unsolved cases involving mothers, who disappeared or were murdered at the same time of year.
Flashbacks to an earlier investigation involving hard-drinking detective Gert Rafto (Val Kilmer), philanthropist Arve Stop (J K Simmons) and plastic surgeon Idar Vetlesen (David Dencik) begin to join the blood-soaked jots.
However, the diabolical killer is one step ahead of Harry and Katrine.
The Snowman is a poor distillation of Nesbo’s page-turner, starved of suspense or any emotional connection to the characters.
Frenetic editing renders one pivotal fight sequence incomprehensible and with each clearly telegraphed twist, Alfredson is incapable of shifting out of first gear.
Unthinkably, he’s built an abominable Snowman.