Picture this: two rich Americans travel to a foreign country for a romantic getaway. Upon their arrival in the luxurious ski resort, their slightly creepy hostess Lali (Tinatin Dalakishvili) informs them that a particularly dangerous slope has been restricted, as several bodies of visitors have been found there recently. The Americans, not realizing that they are in a horror movie, decide to ignore her warnings and make their way there to put their snowboarding skills into practice.
Most horror viewers probably won’t need much more to guess where the story is headed; and Stanislav Kapralov, the director and writer of the chilly Georgian Let It Snow, doesn’t really care. Despite the actors’ best efforts, it’s hard to buy that Mia (Ivanna Sakhno) and Max (Alex Hefner) are anything resembling young Americans in love. Their declarations of affection towards one another end up sounding hollow and the dialogue little more than pretext to fill time until their vacation inevitably takes a turn for the worse. Even coming face to face with a corpse found a few minutes ago on the “Black Slope” isn’t enough for the couple to reconsider their forbidden snowboarding venue.
What follows oscillates between predictable and utterly confusing. Getting rid of the weakest part of the duo early on is probably the smartest decision that the film makes – even though Max and Mia are just as equally underdeveloped, the unfortunate lack of acting skills from Alex Hefner makes it more bearable to follow Mia instead. Yet even despite this decision, Let It Snow struggles to keep itself engaging or original enough to be worthy of much attention.
That said, it would be a lie to say that Kapralov made a movie exactly like any other. The slasher part of the intrigue is without a doubt superfluous: there’s no twist, no particular inventiveness in the mythology or any noteworthy gore beyond a few blood stains on the pristine snow. Yet the most interesting character of the retreat is one that has no line at all, and whose presence is nevertheless overwhelming: the Georgian mountains themselves.
It is almost sad to see such a cinematography feat go to waste due to a subpar script. Although undeniably helped by the natural splendour of the setting, director of photography Yevgeny Usanov displays an impressive level of camera skill resulting in some breathtaking cinematography. What the story lacks in danger is compensated through daring shots and atmospheric composition, turning the ice cold environment into a merciless enemy or a force of beauty depending on the story’s needs.
However gorgeous the film may look, its biggest strength may also lead to its biggest disappointment; while getting lost in the menacing black slope with Mia, it’s easy to get distracted from what is happening on screen to linger on what might have been. Considering the highly competent camerawork on display here, completely leaning into the “woman versus nature” element of the story could have made for a truly chilling watch. Instead, the attempts at making the film more frightening than its paper-thin premise allows makes the entire experience fall flat.
There are worse things to watch than a beautifully uninspired film, but it doesn’t change the fact that Let It Snow is a bore. Its huge potential unfortunately leaves room for an even bigger sense of disappointment, as some might wonder what such a premise could have looked like in more competent hands. Despite clearly good intentions and an undeniable amount of effort put into the making of the film, Kapralov’s debut seems bound to be forgotten – although a bit of editing magic could easily give it a second life as a very attractive touristic advert for Georgia.
by Callie Hardy
Callie (she/her) is a Belgian New Media student currently living in Dublin. She enjoys female-fronted horror, nostalgic adaptations of childhood classics and every outfit Blake Lively wears in A Simple Favor. She’s usually pretty honest, but if you catch her saying that her favourite film is anything other than Lemony Snicket’s A Series Of Unfortunate Events, you should know that she’s lying. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Letterboxd.