Cleopatra Entertainment: Blood and Snow (2023) - Reviewed

Images courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment

Outside of the niche indie circuit of short films as a cinematographer, editor and occasional writer-director, you’re forgiven for not knowing the name Jesse Palangio of two of the Monster Pool anthology horror films.  Chances are though after viewing his feature film debut as a director and cinematographer Blood and Snow, a microbudget arctic science-fiction alien viral outbreak thriller starring Vernon Wells wanting to be John Carpenter’s The Thing, you’ll wish you remained blissfully ignorant.  Releasing through Cleopatra Entertainment who put out the inspired and wonderful The Shock of the Future, this more-or-less straight-to-streaming cheapie means well but never finds its legs or footing and somehow winds up being an even smaller The Thing knockoff than Harbinger Down.

In the arctic region near a scientific base, two scientists including a non-English speaking woman discover a meteor impact site in the tundra.  However, an unseen force appears to kill the man and infects the woman Marie (Anne-Carolyne Binette).  Left for dead, she is rediscovered by the crew and rescued by sympathetic Sebastian (Michael Swatton) and boozing Luke (Simon Phillips) who bring her back to their base commandeered by Paul (Adam Huel Potter) and The Professor (an aged Vernon Wells).  In the time-honored tradition of such a thriller replete with a husky dog who risks being infected itself, the woman eventually reawakens and begins exhibiting warning signs she might not be herself including but not limited to binge eating, superhuman strength and a sudden ability to speak English fluently.  Soon characters begin dying off and it’s a race against time and freezing temperatures to stop the inhuman infection from spreading.

With frankly dull and dismal looking cinematography by the director himself in scenes timed and blocked so poorly you can’t tell what’s going on, hasty camera movement including a drone-shot that pans downward slightly to keep a vehicle in frame or when two characters are talking faces drift in and out of frame, Blood and Snow unfortunately is kind of dire.  With recurring poorly CG rendered wide shots panning over the base with obvious digital snow, a complete absence of visual effects makeup save for some digital eye coloring of Anne-Carolyne Binette when she switches into alien mode, the film doesn’t look very good or have much to offer in the way of horror goods.  Dialogue is also largely poorly recorded with some lines sounding line a microphone was clipped to the actors’ parkas.  Whereas Harbinger Down made the most of its limitations, Blood and Snow can’t seem to escape them. 

I already talked about the film’s ungainly cinematography so let’s talk about Mass composer Darren Morze’s average middling score.  It goes through the usual motions of starter-pack Hans Zimmer or trying hard for those John Carpenter bass notes but never manages to be anything more than serviceable.  Speaking of serviceable, outside of Simon Phillips as the mouthy boozer and Anne-Carolyne Binette as the infected havoc wreaker, everyone here is just kind of hanging around on set.  Vernon Wells, a gifted and renowned character actor, is just winging it here half-asleep and barely registering onscreen as the stereotypical mad scientist wanting to understand the alien rather than kill it.  While the ensemble players work fine against a negative budget, for a film promising plentiful blood and gore we get nothing aside from one slit throat.  Otherwise its all very stale and stagnant old hat.

It gives me no pleasure to give a negative review of a film tailored to my genre interests or propensity for cheaper regional fare with personality over picture.  But alas, I have to give a hard pass to Blood and Snow.  Amalgamated Dynamics effects work this isn’t, it fails to deliver and seasoned horror fans will not be blind to its corner-cutting shoddiness.  If Jesse Palangio hopes to have a future career in film, his best bet is to avoid shooting his own work.  While credited as a cinematographer of many productions, the camerawork and final visual look and sound of Blood and Snow was hard on the eyes and ears.  Nothing wrong with a regional or lo-fi quickie as I’ve enjoyed a handful of dingy dirty shot-on-video films in the past but while those goofball do-it-yourself ventures were entertaining, Blood and Snow was just exhausting if not exasperating.

--Andrew Kotwicki