The Wolf of Snow Hollow

PJ Palfrey’s (Jimmy Tatro, "22 Jump Street," "The King of Staten Island") plans for a romantic weekend in a cabin go horrendously awry when his girlfriend Brianne (Annie Hamilton) is ripped apart outside as he showers.  A huge paw print in the snow next to her body combined with the full moon start inevitable gossip about a werewolf, but Officer John Marshall (filmmaker Jim Cummings) insists the crime was committed by a man and not “The Wolf of Snow Hollow.”

Laura's Review: C+

Writer/director Jim Cummings made a big splash at Sundance in 2016 with the short, "Thunder Road," he later turned into a feature.  His second film features a seemingly effortless, laugh out loud performance by the late Robert Forster, his last, as Marshall’s dad Sheriff Hadley and boasts an effective production, but Cummings’ psychological character study of ‘the beast within’ in parallel with a serial killing thriller never really meshes.  “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is an enjoyable enough watch, but a from-left-field climax too derivative of “The Silence of the Lambs” adds to an overall feeling of mishandled narrative.

We soon learn John Marshall has been going to AA for six years and is divorced with a teenaged daughter, Jenna (Chloe East), who is coming to live with him at exactly the wrong time all while he is trying to protect his dad’s health by taking on a bigger role in Snow Hollow’s much maligned police department (why the latter is so is never really established).  The strain quickly sends John back to the bottle, but as his behavior spins out of control, the dependable and efficient Officer Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome, "Knives Out") is always there to pick up the slack.

Cummings does a great job establishing the small town of Snow Hollow, picturesquely captured with gently falling snow in establishing shots by cinematographer Natalie Kingston.  Production designer Charlie Textor and all the assorted townspeople flesh it out perfectly.  Two additional murders and an attempted third are perfectly staged, the towering wolf shown in just the right amount, enough to suggest the creature’s eerily beautiful menace.  Ben Lovett ("The Wind," "I Trapped the Devil") contributes a score that complements the film’s shifting tones.  The problem lies with a screenplay that attempts to equate Marshall’s downwardly spiraling breakdown with the motivation behind the slayings, one which never connects the dots.  The lead character is just ill conceived – we don’t ever become invested in his conflict with his daughter and, frankly, Cummings overplays the part, going from relatively stable to manic in ten seconds flat and never letting up.  Lindhome pulls double duty conveying not only her own competent character but in evening out her costar’s mania.

“The Wolf of Snow Hollow” doesn’t quite work, but it does feature several eerie scenes, a natural small town setting (shot on location in Utah) and a delightful last hurrah from Forster.

Robin's Review: C+

A tiny rural town is gripped in fear when, on the night of the full moon, a body is found brutalized. Then, for months, another and another and Deputy Sheriff John Marshall, already struggling with alcohol and a teenage daughter, must solve the crimes and convince the town that the killer is NOT a werewolf in “The Wolf of Snow Hollow.”

Something wicked is working overtime in Snow Hollow during the nights of the full moon and the body count is mounting too fast. Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster) has a bad ticker, has trouble with new technology and his son and deputy, John, thinks its time for him to retire. But Deputy John, besides his other problems, like solving the grizzly murders, is not sleeping well.

And, while John is trying to find the killer, the townsfolk, including Officer Chavez (Demetrius Daniels), think the perpetrator is a wolf or, worse, a werewolf! This is a funny premise, but one that director/writer/star Jim Cummings fails to deliver on the promised horror comedy. Some will call Cummings’s performance a “character study,” but I think it more an indulgence of and by the filmmaker.

As I watched “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” I found that the actual hunt for the killer took a back seat to Cummings dominating screen time. Fortunately, and unfortunately, we got to see what turned out to be the last film for veteran actor Robert Forster and he went out leaving a smile on my face. The film, though billed as a horror-comedy, is long on the horror and short on the comedy.