Snowdevil (2021)

“I called because I wanted to tell you that I’m going to kill them. Every last one of them.”

Chilean director Patricio Valladares’ short film Snowdevil presents itself as a dialogue – or several, in fact. We hear a phone conversation between caller Alan Massy and the increasingly alarmed emergency services operator (voiced by Jeannine Gaspar) on the other end of the line, as Alan tells her frankly of the murderous path of vengeance on which he is about to embark against the cult-like organisation that he claims is holding his granddaughter captive.

Meanwhile deftly cut images show Alan already single-handedly – and brutally – engaged in his rampage, as he stalks and kills several guards in the wintry surroundings of the cult’s remote compound near smalltown Snowdevil. The action is already in motion, the phone conversation (even as we hear it) is already over, and seemingly nothing now can stop Alan’s promised massacre. 

The film’s monochrome presentation is entirely in keeping with the short’s noirishly no-nonsense efficiency – but nothing here, besides this visual mode, is in black and white, as we only have Alan’s frankly unhinged-sounding side of the story, and are left to wonder whether perhaps he too might himself be the snowdevil of the title. 

So Valladares’ film, written by his regular collaborator Barry Keating, offers a briskly tense dialectic between words and deeds, between sight and sound, and between motivated revenge-and-recovery mission and psychotic killing spree. Much as the portrayal of Massy is split between physical actor Luis Vitalino and voice artist Luke Massy, Snowdevil itself is no less split in its identity, offering a hardboiled hero who might just be a deranged villain instead.

© Anton Bitel