After a full moon in Snow Hollow, Utah, Officer John Marshall (Jim Cummings) and Detective Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome) are called in to investigate the brutal death of a young woman (Annie Hamilton) vacationing with her boyfriend at a rental cabin, but the slaying suggests something supernatural in origin. Between the failing health of his father, Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster), and an ex-wife badgering him for a lack of attention paid toward their college-bound daughter (Chloe East), all John wants to do is crawl into a bottle as the ski resort town pressures him for instant results. Lacking the dealing-with-the-public tact of his father, John vows to prove to everyone that “a werewolf” isn’t to blame for the rising death toll… even if it kills him.
The trailers tease a sweeping venue for our snowy Fargo-like tale, even emulating some tropes made fun of in The Dead Don’t Die over a modern cover of “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” originally by Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs. “Acting” might not be the correct term for a leading man who also wrote, produced, directed, and edited this feature film, as the toll of wearing too many hats isn’t unlike his character’s plight. Leveraging a location shoot, practical effects, and a murder mystery tainted with a significant dose of raging snark, viewers may ask: is the werewolf real, or is that even the point of all this?
Those considering sinking their teeth into this flick should be advised it’s indeed less about the wolf being a monster and more about the men who could be. Character moments when John wins or falls apart are too few and far between to endure; it’s a relief whenever he’s not on screen — likely not the effect that he was going for. It’s noticeable and significant that Mr. Cummings isn’t a compelling enough lead compared to the rest of his cast since almost everything else works. For a story about a small town cop buckling under the pressures of being everything to everyone all the time, The Wolf of Snow Hollow could have been great instead of good if the filmmaker had learned the very lesson his main character also suffered through.
While billed as a thriller horror comedy, many “funny moments” are uncomfortably dark with few cues as to how viewers are meant to feel. Case and point: few things that suggest existential dread more than a short coffin; anyone understanding the immediate significance of that are going to feel repulsed if the loss of an innocent is played for a cheap laugh. On the flip side, most of the film’s comedy works, if only to offer a moment’s relief from moments of gruesome suggestion. Cummings chooses his money shots with malicious intent, from the first moment the monster is viewed fully out from the shadow to out-of-focus shots that threaten to reveal details better left to the imagination. These are the moments that shine, including a rewarding final reveal.
Sheriff Hadley serves as a mentor for the characters in the same way the late Robert Forster likely did for the cast, embodying the seen-it-all-before “old guard” tradition customary with a passing of the torch. Additionally, a note of warning regarding violence toward women served up with a side of toxic masculinity, but details in this regard would also spoil the film. It’s a matter of personal taste whether the comedic moments undercut the story, but the comeuppance is worth the price of admission.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, some drug use, and “It’s not my fault — if in God’s plan — he made the devil so much stronger than a man…!”
Three skull recommendation out of four