[Panic Fest 2021 Review] RED SNOW
RED SNOW l Courtesy of Panic Fest
As someone that can be easily wined and dined with the most trashy of supernatural-based romance stories, it’s hard to turn away when one sees a horror-comedy that focuses on a failed vampire romance novelist being hunted down by the things they adore. That’s like catnip to this reviewer. So, it was all too easy to dive into RED SNOW and, let’s face it. With a synopsis like that, expectations should be left right at the door when you’re coming in from the snow anyway because anything could happen. Seriously, anything could happen based on what this reviewer has read in the main character’s preferred genre.

RED SNOW focuses on would-be vampire-romance novelist Olivia Rios (Dennice Cisneros), who reads as relatable right off the bat. She wants desperately to be published but doesn’t quite understand why it is that she isn’t getting the acceptances she craves. And, with Christmas approaching, she is doomed to spend the holiday alone in Lake Tahoe with her impeccably themed tree. Seriously, for vamp fans out there, take notes. Fortunately, someone is watching out for her in strange ways. One night she finds an injured bat outside of her door and brings it inside to take care of it. Unbeknownst to her, however, Olivia just brought in a vampire and she gets a major glimpse of its naked form (Nico Bellamy) the following morning.

This film tapped into both this reviewer’s teenage dreams and aspirations, but with a dash of some maturity in there. It’s clear that writer/director Sean Nichols Lynch is familiar enough with the beats found in supernatural romance fiction to know where to lean into things in the script. A nice touch featured, though this reviewer is not sure if it was a decision by the actors or Lynch’s decision, is that Nico Bellamy’s Luke is immediately cast in a vulnerable position. Going from nude to, dare one say, interesting fashion choices, the position of power is always in Olivia’s court. It was definitely a nice touch to see onscreen. Another nice touch is in the ending but, to preserve spoilers from being revealed, this reviewer will keep mum about it.

There are definite limitations revealed in how the story itself was executed, especially when more vampires got involved later on. Whether due to budget or time constraints, certain elements of RED SNOW felt underdeveloped. The weakest link seemed to be Luke’s gang of vampires led by Laura Kennon’s Jackie. Lacking in the intimidation department required of the scenario that took place onscreen, the acting performances read as forced, but how the vampires were developed in the screenplay is as much to blame. It left it difficult to believe the credibility of the danger that Olivia was now being placed in onscreen. A slight tweak in direction, reframing of the script, and different camera angles could have masked the limitations revealed in these moments. This reviewer also wondered if the film would have benefited without the vampire gang’s inclusion because, outside of the needed danger element and exposition, those are elements that Luke could have delivered onscreen.

The inclusion of the Severon Group was the one addition that made this reviewer want a tad more. Each character Olivia comes across onscreen has a different perception of the organization that is out to murder supernatural creatures. By the time Olivia calls the organization beckoning for aid, it reveals a little taste of where Lynch could possibly explore next if so desired. This is helped immensely by Edward Ewell’s delivery in the exchange between his Simon and Dennice’s Oliva.

Overall, RED SNOW showcases the promise of Sean Nichols Lynch, but there is a lot of area for improvement. While this reviewer can enjoy the film for what it is (seriously, this is comfort food for the soul), the third act of the film could have used some tweaking. A slight rewrite or reworking of the scenes mentioned previously could have helped give the climax a bit of an oomph factor that felt missing. However, this reviewer does plan to add this film to their Christmas holiday horror watch list. Maybe snuggled up with a bat too.

RED SNOW had its world premiere at this year’s Panic Fest.

Sarah Musnicky
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