When was the last time you watched a great werewolf movie? Okay, let’s go ahead and say Scooby-Doo doesn’t count, and while we’re at it, the Twilight movies don’t count either. Maybe we can count Wolfcop, but even that’s a little bit of a stretch. The point is, werewolves have fallen out of favor as of late, and it’s a real shame because they provide such an interesting philosophy in the world of monster movies and creature features. Werewolves have little autonomy over their own instincts under a full moon, but go right back to being a friendly neighbor come sunrise; a Jekyll and Hyde effect that still proves to be rich with societal commentary and cultural nuance. Werewolves prey on our most animalistic fears, but have the ability to pluck on our emotional heartstrings, because at the end of the day, the werewolves themselves are often their biggest victims. In the midst of a global pandemic, when all of our social circles are slowly growing more and more exclusive, the thought of a trusted friend having a deadly secret can be particularly chilling.
Enter “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” and auteur director/writer/lead actor Jim Cummings. Fresh off of his success from “Thunder Road” in 2018, an indie-darling smash hit and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW Film Festival and the John Cassavetes award from the Independent Spirit Awards. “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” follows the story of John Marshall, a detective police officer in the sleepy ski resort town of Snow Hollow, Utah. Terror grips the small mountain town as bodies begin to be discovered each morning following a full moon. Officer Marshall works tirelessly to lead his ill-resourced police department, raise a teenage daughter, and care for his ailing father all while combating his own demons. The film tackles a number of heavy themes such as substance abuse, sexual violence, toxic masculinity, over-policing, and mental health disorders, but there is one thing that must be known about this movie – it is a comedy. A high-octane story propelled by punchlines and powerhouse acting performances makes “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” the most memorable werewolf film in years.
The story harkens back to horror stories of the 80’s and 90’s with plenty of imagery and homaging to Stephen King films, “Twin Peaks”, and “Scream”. (There are also more than a few references to “A Nightmare on Elm Street” which is always appreciated.) What “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” intrinsically shares with all of these iconic horror classics is the use of setting. Snow Hollow feels like a fully-realized town. We meet a large number of characters, all of whom have their own motivations and suspicions regarding the string of murders. When these deaths occur, there is a strong emotional impact because we can feel the weight of tragedy cascading down onto the picturesque little town. Officer John Marshall tries his best to keep spirits alive, but quickly falls victim to the avalanche of despair. Did I mention that this is a comedy?
The story predominantly revolves around Marshall’s detective work on the deaths of Snow Hollow and his struggles with addiction. In this way, the mythology of the werewolf works not only to add mystery to the killings, but also to parallel Marshall’s relapse; however, the parallels do not stop there. Marshall works to raise his daughter and see her off to college, but at times, it feels as though it is her responsibility to guide her father towards sensibility, just as it is often Marshall’s responsibility to guide his own father towards a common end. John Marshall’s father, Sheriff Hadley, is played by the legendary Robert Forster in what will be his ultimate performance. Sheriff Hadley is a brilliant, albeit bull-headed, detective who cares deeply for his hometown and refuses to step down as the sheriff even when his own life is on the line. The presence of Hadley’s character, and show-stopping performance from Forster, give us deep insight to the tribulations that face Marshall in his own life; and the palpable chemistry between Forster and Cummings adds a bright red cherry atop this tiramisu of terror.
In a year so deeply devoid of humor and so overwhelmingly abundant with fear, a tasteful dose of horror-comedy might just be what we all need. “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” doesn’t shy away from bold themes and difficult topics, but it approaches them with a tongue in its cheek and isn’t afraid to bring forth more questions than answers. The film is incredibly tight and clocks in at just under an hour-and-a-half and keeps a high-level of momentum from start to finish. The police mystery in the center of the story is well-crafted, harkening back to some of the most effective moments of stories like “True Detective” and “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”. The coupling of a compelling whodunnit and the effective delivery of gallows humor makes “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” a stand-out for this Halloween season. It addresses werewolf tropes while also subverting them, it builds up characters while destroying them, and makes you laugh your butt off while you’re cowering in fear. This is a must-see movie, especially for those who are fans of Wolfcop.
“The Wolf of Snow Hollow” will be available in select theaters nationwide and on Video-on-Demand platforms beginning October 9th.