New Releases: The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020) - Reviewed

People are difficult, complex beasts.  Everyone is broken and at times, vulnerable to the coldness of the world.  In his debut feature, Thunder Road, director Jim Cummings explored a troubled police officer's personal battles with death and familial drama.  Building upon these themes, his second feature, The Wolf of Snow Hollow injects the formula with horror and comedic elements that coalesce into a surprisingly heartwarming concoction.  Featuring one of the strongest leading performances of the year, a sinister visual palette, and a plethora of laugh out loud moments, this is one of the most unique offerings of the year thus far.  

A serial killer is massacring women in the quiet ski resort town of Snow Hollow.  The inept officer in charge of the investigation struggles with his personal demons while dealing with a crime that may be supernatural in origin.  Cummings also wrote the script and stars as the lead, Officer John Marshall.  One of the most striking aspects of his performance is how he approaches alcoholism.  At every turn he resists ebbing too far into darkness or parody, giving Marshall a sense of dignity.  Even when rock bottoms ultimately comes, there is still a way back, still a sense of grace to the wounded protagonist that creates an undeniable aura of charm.  This is what makes Wolf work so well.  All of the police, aside from Riki Lindhorne's astute Julia are out of their depth, and it's refreshing to see a story that explores the very real concept of failure and being unprepared.  As the bodies stack up and the town demands results, the officers' frustrations become palpable.  So many times reporters ask "Why didn't the police do something more?" and this film is the perfect, tragic response.  

Rounding out the cast is the legendary Robert Forester in his final performance before his death.  As the town sheriff and Marshall's ailing father, there's something almost all too real in Forester's weary and frightened persona as he looms in the background of the investigation.  His chemistry with Cummings is a wonderful kind of heartbreak that will resonate long after the wolf's reign of terror ends.  It's a fascinating choice to essentially do a whodunnit style mystery as a werewolf film that ultimately reveals itself to be a meditation on family, but with Cummings, this should be expected.  Both Thunder Road and Wolf have a lot to say about fragile masculinity, fathers and their children, and unhealed wounds.  It is the wounds in particular, things left undone and unsaid, traumas long ignored, and dependencies long embraced that are more dangerous than the denizens of the night and it takes a confrontation with real horror to reveal this truth both to Marshall and the viewer.  

Natalie Kingston's cinematography has an uncomfortable duality that entrenches itself around the characters, building a dichotomy between the illusion of order and control and the blood slicked snow banks of the night.  On the surface this is an idyllic town with odd characters and little drama.  Beneath the veneer, in the wolf's domain are the perils of adulthood: addiction, death, and ultimately letting your child go.  These painful truths are the teeth of the wolf, hungry to rip apart any who would dare ignore them, and in Cummings’ world there is a charming relief in complete surrender.  

Now available for digital purchase, and available for rental on October 27th, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is one of the best surprises of the year.  Hopeful and heartbreaking simultaneously, this sets a new standard for horror comedies while also demonstrating Cummings’ immense talent.  It's clear from the inception that this artist has an immense love of genre, toying with conventions while also revering them and the final result is a film that will assuredly inspire chills and smiles in equal amounts as it celebrates the perfectly flawed human condition.  

Kyle Jonathan