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Red Snow is the Christmas/vampire/comedy horror film you’ll be adding to your must-watch list this holiday season. Writer/director Sean Nichols Lynch always wanted to make a vampire movie but was determined to bring something new to the subgenre, a difficult feat for a subject matter that has been portrayed in every imaginable way a thousand times over at this point in cinematic history. Red Snow manages to accomplish this.

The film is based on the vampire-obsessed wannabe novelist Olivia Romo (Denicce Cisneros), who chooses to spend Christmas alone in her deceased mother’s Lake Tahoe cabin. The neighbours have all left for Florida, and the isolation is just what she needs to complete her newest manuscript that sounds like a trope-filled piece of trash. The stack of rejection letters in her kitchen drawer furthers the sentiment. When a bat suddenly flies into her window and lands on the ground injured, she takes it upon herself to nurse it back to health. She puts it in a shoe box and locks it in her garage with a capful of water and a happy ‘goodnight bat’. There’s crazy, and then there’s Olivia Romo crazy.

The bat, of course, is a vampire. When she hears a commotion in her garage the next day, she opens the door to find Luke (Nico Bellamy) laying on the floor in human form, naked. As any vampire enthusiast would, Olivia skips the part where humans are supposed to be scared and goes directly to “I’ll get one of mom’s old dresses for him to wear”. Olivia bargains with Luke, offering to house him until his injury heals in exchange for an honest review of the vampire romance she’s been working on, and answers to all her questions about the reality of being a vampire. From this point in the film on, a quiet humour pervades every scene.

While Cisneros never stops smiling gleefully at her captive, Bellamy plays a staring, monotoned monster with very little personality. Imagine Twilight’s Edward without the glitter or air of mystery. Luke has a history of murderous rampages, but after meeting Olivia, he begins to humanize under her care. It’s obvious that the two are supposed to be falling in love, but their lack of chemistry on screen hinders this plot point. What they do well, though, is what makes this a good movie: both actors deliver Lynch’s intended wit with enough seriousness that the viewer may take a moment to process what they’ve just heard. The lines are well-timed and just smart enough that they come across as intelligent, not corny. Where a lesser director could have easily missed the opportunity to convert silliness to humour noir, Lynch hits the mark.

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Red Snow is a low budget film that was shot almost entirely in the cabin over only twelve days before Covid necessitated a halt in production. It could have been a boring watch, but Lynch employed several fresh ideas to make his limited sets more interesting, especially in how he shows the passage of time. Shots of Olivia’s daily routine are shown in quick succession, always ending with her taking a candy out of her Christmas advent calendar. As the days pass, they are also counted down (toward Christmas), which is important to the storyline. It’s subtle, but effective. The viewer can experience Olivia’s trust in Luke developing over time, and it makes Luke’s recovery/his reason for staying with her more believable. When the other two members of his vampire trio arrive on Christmas Eve, we are invested enough in Olivia and her insane innocence to be angry for her and to care if she survives.

Visually, the dramatic contrast of red blood splattered across swaths of white snow adds magic to the action and horror elements of the film. Most of these scenes are shot at night (of course!), and the darkened forest is the perfect backdrop for vampire attacks that are supposed to be at least partially scary. The viewer will feel some anxiety knowing what is about to happen to the poor souls being stalked through the night and will enjoy the gory details that the visual effects department created, but they’ll also laugh where the cheesiness was intended.

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The supporting cast adds more depth to the story with individual egos and agendas designed to subvert Olivia and Luke’s budding romance. A vampire hunter (Vernon Wells) is on Luke’s trail and finds his way to Olivia’s cabin while she is nursing him back to health. Luke’s partners Jackie and Brock (Laura Kennon and Alan Silva) threaten to reveal his true nature to Olivia. Without their parts in the plot, the story would be too one-dimensional. Lynch paces their involvement well, allowing them to take the stage every time the viewer might become bored with the main plotline. 

If you’ve ever watched a Hallmark Christmas movie and wished some vampires would show up to make things more interesting, Red Snow is the film for you. It’s not great, but it’s not bad, either. It’s the kind of movie that traditional critics will hate for its absurdity, but for those who enjoy B-movies that are well-filmed, well-told and more than a little weird, it will be a hit.

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