October 31, 2020 The Wolf of Snow Hollow (Movie Review)
Horror films come in lots of different flavors. For a genre often written off as one-dimensional, it is surprisingly malleable; able to incorporate elements of any other film genre and create truly unique viewing experiences that other film types never could. Of course, they come with varying degrees of success. Which leads us to Orion Classics’ The Wolf of Snow Hollow, arriving in theaters and On Demand as of Friday, October 9, 2020.
A film that falls somewhat in the Horror category, it is so tonally confusing that many might leave wondering what kind of movie they just watched. Written, directed by, and starring Jim Cummings (Krisha 2015, Thunder Road 2018), The Wolf of Snow Hollow tells the the story of a small, snowy town in nowhere America that becomes the site of a series of brutal animal killings, and the town’s bungling, ineffective police force’s efforts to stop it. The police force is made up of a number of eccentric characters, including Cummings’ Officer John Marshall, Comedienne Riki Lindhome (Another Period series, Knives Out 2019) as Julia Robson, and the late Robert Forster (Jackie Brown 1997, Breaking Bad series) in his final role as Sheriff Hadley, John’s father.
Main character John is dealing with a few personal problems, to put it mildly. He is a recovering alcoholic, has a poor relationship with his ex-wife and young daughter, and is constantly vying for the authority of sheriff, which his elderly and sick father refuses to relinquish. These problems all come to a head when a young woman is murdered in brutal fashion one night, then another the next night. Then another. The only thing known about the killer is the gruesome nature of the crime scene, and that it leaves large, bloody paw prints.
The police force is clearly overwhelmed. They have never seen anything like this, and by the sheriff’s own admission, only average one homicide every few years. Sheriff Hadley is old, stubborn, and unable to effectively lead. The officers are mostly foolish and way off base with their assumptions about who or what is responsible for the killings. John, himself, despite his personal life in turmoil, is on the right track for the most part. Lindholme’s character Julia is easily the most level-headed of them all; John is lucky to have her steadfast work ethic and smarts on his side. With the killings happening on a full moon, can the police get themselves in order and take out the beast before it kills again?
There is a good amount of Black Comedy in The Wolf of Snow Hollow, some of it works well, while other times it falls somewhere between confusing and cringe. Robert Forster is much less serious than many are used to seeing him. Quirky and stubborn, Hadley acts more as a source of frustration to his son than a help, but is still endearing. John has perhaps a bit too much going on between the alcoholism, anger issues, and family turmoil, on top of his job, and it is a very tall order to merge those into a cohesive character. Cummings plays him in a way that doesn’t let the audience know if he should be endearing for his struggles or disliked for his failings as a father.
One of the things that throws the movie’s tone off is the fact that the killings never feel like they are treated seriously. They are not treated as a joke exactly, but so much focus is on John’s hair-trigger temper or the comedic power struggle of command that the bumbling reactions are more the focus than the killings or the killer. Oddly, Lindholme is the actor with the most comedic expertise, but is given the least comedic role in the film. She is very good, but one wonders if things could have gelled a little better if she was given a character as quirky as the others.
Overall, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a mixed bag. If it could be defined in a single word, it would be peculiar. It is a Horror Comedy hybrid, but is purposely not scary enough or funny enough to fall into either camp firmly. The actors are all good, but it is a bit difficult to connect with John. Ultimately, your satisfaction with this film will be proportional to how much you enjoy the kaleidoscopic blending of tones and themes. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Wolf of Snow Hollow 3 out of 5 stars.