We’ve all seen plenty of vampire movies over the years, the creature being the inspiration for so many different kinds of films over the last (almost) century that they have existed on screen. Yet despite all the variety, the monsters are still intrinsically linked to the writings of Bram Stoker, Transylvania, and castles etc. The latest film to try and break through these stereotypes is Red Snow, from writer and director Sean Nichols Lynch. Set in the lead up to Christmas (which in itself is already something quite different for the sub-genre) the story tells of a vampire obsessed floundering novelist, Olivia (Dennice Cisneros), who gets way more than she bargained for after rescuing an injured bat.
Olivia discovers that the bat is actually an injured vampire called Luke (played by Nico Bellamy). Whilst most normal people would run a mile, Olivia has the opposite response. Christmas has come early for her as she finds herself face-to-face with the object of her fanaticism. She excitedly sets about trying to make Luke as comfortable as possible, her enthusiasm taking him by surprise. It’s an interesting dynamic to see play out as, despite Luke’s obvious strength, it is Olivia that initially has control within their relationship. From the first moment that we see Luke, injured and naked, he is in the weaker and more vulnerable position. We don’t often see females in positions of power over male characters so early on in a story and the decision gets Red Snow off to a strong start.
Red Snow eventually gets to the more traditional aspects of a home invasion story as Luke’s clan of vampires arrive to help him, but the bulk of the story is rooted with the relationship between Olivia and Luke. The opening act is a series of conversations as the pair get to know one another. Presented with a genuine interview with a vampire, Olivia seeks to glean as much as she can from Luke to help make her novels more appealing to publishers. Luke is a keen and willing interview subject, having carried the burden of human’s misconceptions about his species for decades. The two set about making Olivia’s work better, moving it out of the old and dusty cookie-cutter vampire environment, into a more modern setting. This is a perfect mirror image of what Lynch himself is trying to achieve as he takes the genre away from Eastern European accents and dusty castles in favour of a modern and rather ordinary setting for the narrative to play in.
There is a lot of warmth and humour laced within Olivia and Luke’s discussions. A lot of the comedic elements come in the form of the reworkings and acknowledgement of the vampire lore – there’s a cracker of a joke about Holy Water. Lynch is openly a fan of the vampire sub genre, citing both The Lost Boys and Fright Night as two of his favourites, and these movies have clearly influenced the film’s conversations, conventions, and how the funny aspects have been worked in. Similar to the sequence in The Lost Boys during which the Frog Brothers dispel some of Sam’s perceptions of the nocturnal creature, we get a scene of quick-fire questions during which Luke sets the groundwork of the lore to this version of vampires.
On the surface one might think that Red Snow is just a throwaway vampire movie with laughs, but if you dig deeper you realise that the themes that it is exploring have a wider and far-reaching real world application. A lot of the interactions between Olivia and Luke revolve around the stereotype of vampires. Olivia buys into everything that she has seen and been told in literature and movies and makes assumptions on Luke based off of those. This is how a vast majority of people live their lives, they immediately buy into something that they see or read and associate it with anyone of a similar race or social standing. As Luke pushes against these views, offering his real version of a vampire, Olivia’s own stance changes and as the walls of ignorance are broken down, a friendship forms. Similarly, Lynch is subtly demonstrating that maybe you should get to know someone before instantly judging them based on your own preconceptions.
The arrival of more vampires causes the narrative direction to shift, the film morphing into more of an action setting, aligning itself with the house siege in The Lost Boys, only instead of death by stereo, Olivia has a sticky taped together cross made of scraps of wood. Luke’s fellow vampires are what you might term as the more typical overtly aggressive bloodthirsty monsters, and as events get bloody, the fun factor is heightened. In order to survive Olivia has to channel her inner John McClane (which is fitting given the Yuletide setting), as she battles for her life. The switch up is a welcome change of pace, for as interesting and easy as the relationship-forming part of the story is, it would be too much to encompass the whole film. The change also reveals exactly why the FrightFest programmers scheduled Red Snow in the late night screening spot.
Bubbling away in the background of everything else on screen is a shadowy organisation called the Sevron group. They’re essentially monster eradicators, and though not heavily featured, have a strong influence on events and offer an interesting direction for a potential sequel to go. The inclusion of the group also exemplifies Lynch’s talent at world-building and further exploration into the one set up here is an enticing prospect.
Red Snow is a worthy entry into the history of vampires, Lynch presenting enough new material to be interesting, and plenty of homages and nods to the established to entertain. A fun fusion of The Lost Boys, True Blood and Die Hard, Red Snow is the Christmas vampire movie that you never knew you needed. Fresh, fun, and festive, Red Snow turns vampiric conventions on their head whilst encouraging us all to rethink our own prejudiced views on those we perceive to be unlike us.
Red Snow is out on Digital HD now.
This review first appeared on THN.