THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW (2020)

Wolf of Snow Hollow.jpg

Studio:      Orion Classics
Director:    Jim Cummings
Writer:      Jim Cummings
Producer:  Kathleen Grace, Matt Hoklotubbe, Michael J. McGarry, Natalie Metzger, Matt Miller, Benjamin Wiessner
Stars:     Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, Jimmy Tatro, Robert Forster

Review Score:

75.jpg

Summary:

In the midst of maintaining his fractured family, an alcoholic cop must solve a small town murder mystery that could be connected to a werewolf.


Synopsis:     

Review:

¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± comes billed as a horror-comedy. That¡¯s not inaccurate, although for expectations¡¯ sake, we should be specific about the distinct flavor that comes from the film¡¯s blend of genres. We don¡¯t want anyone opening the wrong can due to a generic label.

¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± isn¡¯t written to be a platform for rapid-fire jokes or a showcase of silly skits. It¡¯s not campy. It¡¯s not cartoony. You won¡¯t see someone slipping on a blood pool like it¡¯s Daffy Duck¡¯s banana peel. You won¡¯t hear people talking in sharp-barbed zingers that were clearly crafted by professional comedians when they¡¯re supposed to be spontaneous exchanges of ordinary people. ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± isn¡¯t ¡°Shaun of the Dead¡± or ¡°Dead Alive.¡± It¡¯s not even ¡°Re-Animator¡± or ¡°Happy Death Day¡± (review here), although those two titles inch closer to how ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± employs dry comedy with soft brush strokes to add a light glaze of levity.

For the most part, ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± takes place in reality, or at least a reality within arm¡¯s reach. Characters are of the quietly quirky variety, a little like the homegrown locals of ¡°Fargo¡± but with more subtle peculiarities. Actions or words might make them momentarily funny, yet they¡¯re rarely trying to be. ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± hones a comedic edge on one side of its blade. It just isn¡¯t sharpened to cut with laugh out loud hilarity.

You also aren¡¯t going to get a huge amount of horror. In the story, a series of murders attributed to a werewolf shakes a small ski resort town. Butchered bodies create gruesome sights spattered with grisly practical gore on occasion. But if you¡¯re itching for epic werewolf action, this movie won¡¯t scratch your fur either.

Much more than a mere horror-comedy, ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± applies those two genres on top of a tale that¡¯s really a family-focused drama. Writer/director Jim Cummings builds an inviting atmosphere out of dive bars, diners, and cozy fireplaces that create a classic cinematic small town. Then he populates it with slightly askew people who at least pass for their professions instead of like stand-up comics playing pretend police. With the colors set and his canvas stretched, Cummings finally has what he needs to paint a portrait of a strong yet struggling man who¡¯s fighting to stay afloat in his personal relationships while solving the crimes of a serial monster at the same time.

In addition to writing and directing, Jim Cummings plays John, the alcoholic officer caught between his ailing father who refuses to retire and a vindictive ex-wife who¡¯s always on him about their teenage daughter Jenna. Obviously, this means the indie filmmaker seeps all over the screen. No matter the reason that brings you to ¡°Snow Hollow¡± then, how well you take to the movie comes down to how well you take to Jim Cummings as both an actor and a creator.

John isn¡¯t an easy man to get along with, for the residents of Snow Hollow or for viewers. He¡¯s caustic, inconsiderately reckless, and pretty much a prick to everyone around him. A sincere heart beats beneath his air of superiority, even though his haughtiness isn¡¯t unjustified considering the comparatively careless cops he works with.

John, and by association/extension Jim Cummings, is therefore an acquired taste. Cummings comes with a ¡®take it or leave it¡¯ personality wired to rub some people the wrong way. A little bit of his snide style goes a great distance, which will be too far for anyone who doesn¡¯t synch with his particular shtick.

Despite anchoring the overall attitude, John¡¯s cynical steeliness gets tempered by small supporting parts filled with big talent. Under other circumstances, the first victim¡¯s boyfriend and one of the key cops would be forgettable roles. They have limited meat to begin with, so they stay fairly marginal, except Jimmy Tatro and Riki Lindhome have the chops to automatically inject their underwritten alter egos with immense affability the script doesn¡¯t necessarily give them.

I don¡¯t know if late, great veteran actor Robert Forster was ill while filming this final performance as John¡¯s father Sheriff Hadley. It doesn¡¯t matter. Whether Hadley was always conceived as a dying man or if Lindhome and Cummings held Forster¡¯s arm because he had legitimate trouble standing, Forster does what Forster does best: steal every scene he appears in. An abrupt, albeit reasonably written, departure for his character suggests the movie may have had to work around his availability. Again though, I¡¯d rather not know any true stories that necessitated rewrites. It¡¯s enough to appreciate Forster as a grizzled yet good-hearted lawman whose vulnerable portrayal is made all the more heartwarming and heartbreaking due to Forster¡¯s passing.

I ended up wanting even more interpersonal drama from the film, particularly between the two generations of dads as well as John and his daughter, which is an odd thing to say about a thriller where others will wish for more thrills. The movie¡¯s mystery doesn¡¯t play fair, so the whodunit element never results in a true ¡®play along at home¡¯ component. Some strange editing, such as sudden cutaways to a seemingly random junkie or juxtaposing a murder and investigation occurring at different times of day, further chop up flow. A knock-on effect means side characters see their screentime shortchanged, which constricts how much room they have to gel as an engaging ensemble.

At the same time, it¡¯s hard to be harsh on ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± because of its sincere spirit. There are worse mistakes a movie can make than creating characters you wish you could spend more time getting to know. Sure, ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow¡± falls in this hole because of how hastily it corners around side stories. But it¡¯s also hard to hate on a spry 80-minute runtime that¡¯s more intent on getting to the point than belaboring it. Maybe it won¡¯t satiate appetites anxious to gorge on comedic carnage. Those who stick around for a charismatic cast working their way through character flaws and everyday conflicts will be better positioned to feel the introspective bite of ¡°The Wolf of Snow Hollow.¡±

Review Score: 75