The Movie Waffler New Release Review [VOD/Digital] - THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review [VOD/Digital] - THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW

the wolf of snow hollow review
A small town is menaced by a werewolf preying on young women.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jim Cummings

Starring: Jim Cummings, Robert Forster, Riki Lindhome, Jimmy Tatro, Chloe East

the wolf of snow hollow poster

One of my favourite screenwriters is Lane Slate, who over the course of the 1970s developed a distinctive formula that marked his scripts as coming from the Slate typewriter. His movies usually took place in a small town in the American West and revolved around a Sheriff (played by the likes of Alan Alda, James Garner, James Brolin and several times, Andy Griffith in the role of Sheriff Abel Marsh) whose humdrum career is ignited by a series of mysterious killings, the sort of terror that just doesn't belong in his otherwise peaceful hamlet. If you haven't seen them already, I highly recommend Isn't it Shocking?, The Girl in the Empty Grave and The Car.

the wolf of snow hollow review

I've often wondered what it might be like if Slate had applied this formula to the sort of monster movies that were being made for TV at the time - movies like Snowbeast, Scream of the Wolf and Moon of the Wolf. Well, with The Wolf of Snow Hollow, his second feature as writer/director, actor turned filmmaker Jim Cummings has delivered something close to an answer.

Cummings' impressive debut feature, Thunder Road, saw him cast himself in the role of a small town cop undergoing a nervous breakdown brought on by the death of his mother. The film was very much a character drama centred entirely on its protagonist's increasingly fractured psyche. The Wolf of Snow Hollow sees Cummings essaying a very similar character, this time the beleaguered deputy Sheriff of the titular snow blanketed town. John Marshall is a recovering alcoholic who attends AA meetings in the basement of his precinct house and is plagued by anger issues. He's permanently stressed out by the refusal of his aging father (Robert Forster in his final role) to retire from the position of Sheriff, despite his doctor's advice to do so, and by trying to raise his teenage daughter (Chloe East). As if that wasn't enough to contend with, the women of his town are being murdered in brutal fashion by what appears to be a large wolf.

the wolf of snow hollow review

Cummings might be accused of plagiarising himself here, such are the similarities to his debut feature, but dropping such a volatile protagonist into what appears a straightforward genre cinema scenario results in something we haven't really seen before. Sure, we've all seen the alcoholic cop who still manages to nail the bad guys while sneaking sups from the flask he keeps in his dashboard, but they're always cartoon characters. Cummings' John Marshall copes with his situation the way any real person would, i.e. very badly and in a highly unprofessional manner. Marshall is constantly wound up, speaking in a rapid fire manner that would make Preston Sturges and Howard Hawks ask him to tone it down. As a director, Cummings helps convey Marshall's psychological state through non-linear editing that chops up timelines, as though Marshall is constantly trying to both think ahead to anticipate his killer's next move while reflecting on events that have already occurred.

What makes Marshall all the more interesting is how far from likeable he is. He seems to believe he's the only one with problems, and spends most of the movie behaving like a bratty child. Like Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China, he mistakenly believes he's the hero of his story, but it's actually his put upon fellow officer Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome) who does most of the real work, keeping a cool head while her colleague repeatedly blows his top. You get the sense that the only thing stopping those around Marshall from punching his lights out is the fact that he's the Sheriff's boy.

the wolf of snow hollow review

In recent years we've seen the emergence of what's becoming annoyingly known as "elevated horror," horror movies which go out of their way to present us with something new. They're often a drag, making subtext text and adopting a lecturing tone while losing sight of the basic elements that make horror work. The Wolf of Snow Hollow is refreshing because it's happy to outwardly present us with a scenario we've seen multiple times before, but hooks us in with a unique protagonist (in this way it owes as much to the western genre as to horror). The location and the villain are very familiar, but it's the anti-hero that sets it apart from the crowd, while Cummings understands that familiarity with a genre can be as cosy as a raging fire in a log cabin. Should you wish to look for it, there's a subtext here about male narcissism and entitlement, but it never gets in the way of a good old werewolf yarn.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow
 is on UK VOD/Digital now.

2020 movie reviews