As the Senior Possible Werewolf (and also correspondent) at Comic Years, I’ve had some disappointments lately with wolf stuff. However, I was excited when I saw the trailer for The Wolf of Snow Hollow. As I mentioned in that post, I liked the vibe, which as one YouTube commenter put it, seemed like Fargo (but with werewolves). But trailers can sometimes be deceiving and liking one isn’t a guarantee that you’ll like the movie. So I was also a bit nervous when I set out to watch and review The Wolf of Snow Hollow.
What’s It All About?
image via Orion Classics
Again, if you watched the trailer, then you have a pretty good idea of what’s going on. Except for the Fargo part. Despite the presence of Twin Peaks alum Robert Forster (in his last role), this movie doesn’t really have the quirk of that show or Fargo, the show or movie. If you didn’t watch the trailer, though, then here’s what you need to know. Someone or something is killing people in the tiny burg of Snow Hollow, Utah. And whatever it is isn’t just killing them–it’s mutilating them and taking souvenirs. A lot of the evidence the police find points to a large wolf. The murders are also tied to full moons, prompting suggestions of supernatural suspects. However, officer John Marshall (Jim Cummings, also the writer and director) refuses even to entertain this possibility.
But as the number of bodies increases, so does the pressure on John. A recovering alcoholic, he balances that with his job at the Snow Hollow police department and his duties as a divorced dad. Suffice it to say, he’s under a lot of stress already. With his sheriff father (Forster) facing failing health and the public clamoring for an end to the killings, the tension in John’s life only escalates. Some people face pressure and start spouting coffee mug proverbs about how that’s what makes diamonds. John is not one of those people. So we follow him as he tries to figure out who’s behind these murders before he completely loses his religion, his sobriety, and his relationships.
A Word about Genre, Again
Last week I dinged a movie for being inconsistent with its genre. And if you see The Wolf of Snow Hollow, then you might expect me to have the same complaint. After all, it’s a horror comedy that’s actually pretty light on the horror. That is to say, it’s never really scary.
In addition, you couldn’t really call it a thriller, either. Despite the subject matter, there are few thrills here. Instead, this is a movie closer to The Silence of the Lambs or Zodiac, in that it’s really more of a drama with a splash of serial murder. It’s also kind of a whodunit, in the vein of 1974’s The Beast Must Die, which included a “werewolf break,” in which audiences were encouraged to guess the real lycanthrope.
The Beast Must Die, image via Cinerama Releasing Corporation
It does qualify as a hyphenated comedy, though. It’s quite funny, and Jim Cummings gets how people really talk, in a way that a lot of screenwriters just don’t.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review
image via Orion Classics
I mentioned in my review of Bloodthirsty that a werewolf story at its heart is about desire. But it’s not just desire as we normally think of it, as sexual desire. Rather, it’s the desire to indulge all our basest impulses. And as we see in werewolf stories, this often includes rage. For someone who can’t handle their anger, this can be the most dangerous desire of all.
And this is something that Cummings explores in the movie in his role as John. On the surface, when we meet him, John appears to be doing his best. That surface, though, is thin, just barely sealing in a boiling pot of fury. When the seal breaks, John turns his anger on others to an extent, but he saves the majority of it for himself. It culminates in a devastating scene between him and his daughter Jenna (Chloe East).
But that’s not to say that this is a bummer of a movie. Despite the fact that it made me cry in at least two parts, including the aforementioned one, overall it’s a joy to watch. Cummings is compelling in the lead role, but he’s matched by the great cast he’s assembled. This includes Riki Lindhome as Officer Julia Robson, the real star of the police force, who keeps her head down and quietly does her job until she figures out what’s going on.
All of it ends in a reveal that some viewers might find disappointing. I understand that reaction, but if you go into it knowing that it’s more of a character drama than a spooky-ooky story, then it should meet your expectations. It’s hard to thread the needle on a movie like this–part drama, part comedy, part a strange hybrid genre. But I thought Cummings and his team managed it, walking the very thin line between an inventive werewolf story and a hairy mess, and coming out firmly on the side of a vividly refreshing new take.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is now available in theaters and on demand.
featured image via Orion Classics
Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. She now splits her time between the Appalachian wilds (of Alabama) and the considerably more refined streets of New York City. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf.