Are you a fan of vampires? Have you ever considered what you’d do if you actually met one?...
…Writer-director Sean Nichols Lynch’s Red Snow tries to answer that question in this horror comedy, screened as a part of Panic Fest 2021.
After a title-card that feels very reminiscent of Twilight, which is definitely on brand for this film, we meet Olivia Romo (Dennice Cisneros), a novelist that loves to write vampire romances. Olivia is staying in Lake Tahoe, in the house she just inherited after her mothers recent passing, and when she sees yet another rejection letter from a publisher she grows increasingly frustrated.
Olivia continues to work on her novel but is interrupted by a bat flying into the side of her house. She finds it outside injured and decides to take it in, taking care of it by giving it water and applying little plasters, and even makes it comfy in a little box which she leaves out in the garage for the night, saying goodnight bat before she goes up to bed to sleep.
The next morning we get an idea of her regular routine as she starts her day like she would any other. Olivia opens up the door on her advent calendar, she has a phone conversation with her sister that does not sound fun at all, but very typical of a familial interaction and a relatable conversation for anyone with a uterus that doesn't want children. But the conversation comes to a stop when Olivia hears a crash. After hanging up, she goes out to investigate what made the sound, and in the garage she finds Luke (Nico Bellamy), who had once been the bat, now in human form and sprawled naked on the floor, his eyes pale and his teeth bared as he hisses viciously at her.
We learn that Luke is a vampire being pursued by a hunter who disguises himself as a private detective called Julius King (Vernon Wells). Olivia, seeming more like an enthusiastic fangirl than a woman facing a deadly creature, helps cover for Luke and hides him from the vampire hunter, then proceeds to take care of him and even procures blood for him. In exchange Luke gives Olivia feedback on her novel, because what could be more valuable than a real-life vampire’s perspective?
As Julius King begins to close in on Luke, and the vampires he hangs out with can’t be held off any longer, the tentative peace Olivia and Luke have found with one another threatens to come crashing down.
Cisneros does a wonderful job as Olivia, portraying her as someone who's a little strange and intense, while also remaining likeable and funny. She has great chemistry with Bellamy, who gives a great performance as Luke, a vampire that seems very stereotypical for the genre at first, but quickly steps away from a lot of those tropes and ends up being a refreshing character that I enjoyed.
Now, I normally don’t do this because I try to keep all of my reviews spoiler free, but I wanted to talk about my very specific read of this film which involves getting into some stuff.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The reason I attached myself so strongly to Luke’s character is because of the way I read him and how a lot of his moments in this film resonated with me as a trans person.
The first time I saw these similarities are when he is talking to Olivia about the vampire hunters. He tells her that they're all fascists that will wipe out anything that doesn't fit their world view, which sounds a lot like the sentiments bigots have when talking about almost any marginalised community.
Secondly, for most of this story Luke is wearing Olivia's mum’s old clothes, and while I don't adhere to a gender binary and I don't think clothing has a gender, these are tropes that are often utilised in stories with a trans character. But what I connected to is that Luke was just as comfortable in those clothes as he was his own, and seemed almost unaware that clothing is gendered by most people.
But the part that solidified this read for me was when Luke and Olivia sat down and had their first discussion about her book. He gives her some genuinely constructive criticism that as an editor I would have given her too, though probably in a more professional way, because he's trying to direct her away from tired tropes and wants the characters to have more depth. He doesn't think the vampire should live in a castle and be sad all the time, and he doesn't think he should be mean to the main character.
Instead of taking this on board and making changes based on feedback she tells him what her character is feeling and why, explaining that all vampires are sad because they miss their old life and everyone they care about is gone.
This felt very reminiscent to the way cis people, though they might have good intentions, can sometimes speak over trans people and try to tell us about our own experiences. Luke tells her he doesn't miss his old life at all, that he doesn't even remember it, and Olivia wonders if that’s a defence mechanism to help with the transition. The way he talked about his old life was deeply relatable for me, because when I came out I didn't want anyone to bring up who I was before it.
The way Olivia co-opts that, and then ends up keeping Luke as a prisoner so she can keep receiving feedback, reminded me a lot of how our stories can be co-opted by people they don't belong to and used to further their careers. Because of this read, and the way it ended, to me Olivia felt like the real villain of it all. However, I have no idea if any of this was intended by the creator at all, I just know that this read didn't feel like a big leap for me.
Overall, Red Snow is a low-budget production but well made with a lot of charm, a self-aware horror comedy that examines what makes a good vampire story. It gives us enough references to make any fan of that sub-genre happy, and it all comes together to make a fun and fast paced story that’s very meta and full of characters that are mostly likeable.
By Wren Crain