VOD film review: The Wolf of Snow Hollow
Mark Harrison | On 16, Jan 2021
Director: Jim Cummings
Cast: Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome, Robert Forster, Chloe East, and Jimmy Tatro
Watch The Wolf of Snow Hollow: Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Virgin Movies / Rakuten TV / Google Play
“You think women have had to deal with this since the Middle Ages?” Actor-writer-director Jim Cummings made a terrific feature debut with 2019’s Thunder Road, a film about a tightly wound cop dealing with bereavement. Without much of a rest, he’s done it again by directing, writing and starring in The Wolf of Snow Hollow, a procedural horror-comedy that deals with murder under a full moon.
As deputy sheriff of the titular ski resort in Utah, Officer John Marshall (Cummings) is already on the brink of a breakdown when a series of grisly murders rock the quiet community. John is a recovering alcoholic, he’s estranged from his daughter Jenna (Chloe East) and he’s afraid of losing his terminally ill father (the late Robert Forster, in a poignant final performance). Worse still, as the investigation repeatedly embarrasses the sheriff’s department, there’s mounting evidence that the attacker is a werewolf.
As impressive as Thunder Road is, this continues and elaborates upon that movie’s exploration of fragile masculinity and winds up being the better film for it. While there’s no doubt that Cummings is still the lead here, there’s no “performed by” credit this time around because it’s not as much a one-man show. There are similarities between John and the previous film’s frazzled cop, but here, the film’s sinewy, Coen-flavoured genre-hopping helps propel it beyond Cummings’ central performance.
It gets away with its sustained ambiguity about the werewolf by focusing on the what, the who and the why of it too. The above quote comes from a credulous conversation with Riki Lindhome’s Officer Julia about the origins of the werewolf myth, and the role of monsters as a means of rationalising the evil that men (and specifically men) do.
She retorts with a look, and the exchange is a perfect precis of this brisk, acerbic hybrid, in which John’s best intentions are stymied by his oblivious arrogance. What’s more, the film brings the big swinging versatility of Thunder Road to an even wider range of tones, conversing with murder mystery and monster movie tropes without ever talking over itself.
The biggest flex of all is that it covers everything in just 85 minutes, including a satisfying resolution to both the whodunnit and the underlying male anxiety. Indeed, it moves so quickly that certain bits of foreshadowing may pass some viewers by on first watch. The good news is that you’re going to want to see it again; this is one of those mystery films that’s just as fun to rewatch when you know where it’s going.
At once a companion to Thunder Road and a sort-of rebuttal to that film’s climax (which was, for our money, the one false step in a terrific debut), The Wolf of Snow Hollow is funny, grisly and even a bit tear-jerking in places. Striding between black comedy and emotional horror, it cements Jim Cummings as a rising star in indie cinema – if he can turn one of these out so soon after the wrenching performance piece that launched his feature career, he’s a talent to be reckoned with.