Thanks to an over-reliance on unconvincing ADR making most of the cast seem even more wooden than they would already be, badly chosen video effects and mid-1990s camerawork dating the project hideously, and what feels like television comedy pacing, this version of the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale – which attempts to retain the dark fairytale aspect while ditching much of the plot and spinning a new one instead – is ultimately unsuccessful, fatally undermined by its poor production choices in spite of an interesting cast and some bold ideas.
Ideas that exist only insofar as the premise is concerned, alas, failing to extend as far as the screenplay, which provides the cast with only the barest sketches of characters and some woefully thin dialogue. Sigourney Weaver – by some considerable distance the best thing in this, and even then only because of the lack of competition – attempts to give Snow White’s (or rather, Lilliana Hoffman’s) stepmother a more realistic motivation than the Grimms originally had, but unfortunately once her marriage to Lord Fredric (Sam Neill, present in body but not in spirit) has been consummated, Lady Claudia’s descent into wickedness progresses too quickly and too spasmodically to convince. Not that Fredric and Claudia’s romance felt any more authentic than the one Fredric’s daughter Lilliana (Monica Keena, looking about twelve) “enjoys” with the family doctor (David Conrad, looking hardly any older and in the most ill-fitting wig ever committed to camera), a set-up which serves only to distance the viewer even more than the aforementioned ADR, pacing and effects.
There’s an apple, a mirror and seven ex-miners (only one of whom happens to be a dwarf, another being Gil Bellows who simmers and steams long enough for Lilliana to get a matching facial scar so that the pair can fall in love and eventually live happily ever after), but there’s also a crucifixion, unmistakably a sex scene and some stepmother-on-prospective-son-in-law seduction which add up to a more adult take on the story, begging the question of what audience the producers are aiming their product at; if it’s the teens then the characterisation of the juveniles surely needs to be stronger, while few adults would likely buy into the general air of artificiality and most children would be excluded on grounds of most of the above.
All of which does Snow White: A Tale of Terror something of a disservice, because on the one hand it does what it does with the same kind of conviction that the Twilight movies achieved, and for everybody else – something it also shares with the Stephenie Meyer adaptations – the hokeyness is thin enough to keep entertaining even if for all the wrong reasons. Awful, but far from unpleasantly so.
SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MICHAEL COHN / SCREENPLAY: TOM SZOLLOSI, DEBORAH SERRA / STARRING: SIGOURNEY WEAVER, SAM NEILL, MONICA KEENA, GIL BELLOWS / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW