[Beyond Fest] The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review: Subversive, Offbeat & Quietly Thrilling

Rating: 

9.5/10

Cast:

Jim Cummings as John Marshall

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Riki Lindhome as Officer Julia Robson

Robert Forster as Sherriff Hadley

Chloe East as Jenna Marshall

Jimmy Tatro as PJ Palfrey

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Marshall Allman as Jeremy

Neville Archambault as Gerry

Annie Hamilton as Brianne

Kelsey Edwards as Liz Fairchild

Written and Directed by Jim Cummings

The Wolf of Snow Hollow Review:

The werewolf genre has been all but dead for the past decade, with the iconic horror creature generally subjected to being a side character or to more gimmicky films than a straightforward piece, but with The Wolf of Snow Hollow, writer/director/star Jim Cummings has delivered a truly original and compelling new take on the classic monster that is sure to delight genre enthusiasts and general audiences alike.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow follows a small-town sheriff, struggling with a failed marriage, a rebellious daughter, and a lackluster department, is tasked with solving a series of brutal murders that are occurring on the full moon. As he’s consumed by the hunt for the killer, he struggles to remind himself that there’s no such thing as werewolves.

Very rarely has the werewolf subgenre elected to take a whodunnit approach to revealing just who is the person being transformed into the hairy beast and in doing so, Cummings has found a clever way to properly focus the story more on his quirky and offbeat characters and their relationships with one another rather than generic monster action and it works brilliantly. As much fun as it is to speculate and take guesses as to who might be the one terrorizing the small town, with occasional glimpses even being given as to a potential suspect, the majority of the film’s entertainment comes from seeing the writer/director’s own character John Marshall struggle with everything from a town and department lacking respect for the law to his ailing father, also the chief of police, and his defiant daughter.

Though the writing does make it hard to connect to him or sympathize with him in moments as he lashes out at all of those around him, with some of his actions coming across as more mean-spirited than humorous, it does also give viewers a chance to understand the meaning behind the anger. He’s not just another hot-headed jerk solely for the sake of being mean, he has a lot on his mind, including a bothersome ex-wife and a fight with alcoholism, which make it a bit easier to forgive him in moments, even as he spews venom to those around him.

While the writing for the characters is already inherently intriguing, they’re all further bolstered by wonderful performances from its cast, most notably Cummings, Riki Lindhome and Robert Forster in his last feature role. Through tragic timing, Forster’s final role has him cast as a man struggling to accept his ailing health and he plays it with a feeling of authenticity, from powerful reflections on his career and its comparison to the case to struggling to traverse the snowy terrain at crime scenes.

Lindhome, better known for her work in the world of comedy than anything else, has made occasional appearances in the field of horror before with The Last House on the Left and Pulse remakes and she really shines as Julia, John’s biggest source of support in the department. Normally when offered a character such as Julia, be it a small town setting or big city, it develops into a romantic relationship with the male lead and yet the film offers a more interesting path by allowing her to be simply an independent woman wanting to help a friend and she brings a real warmth to the role that makes her a delight to watch.

When we’re not following characters that feel very reminiscent of those penned by Rian Johnson or Wes Anderson, the audience is being treated to a compelling and frequently haunting murder mystery that follows in the footsteps of the early masterworks of David Fincher with just a hint of the beautifully dark world of NBC’s Hannibal. Cummings and cinematographer Natalie Kingston’s artistic eyes proved to be a match made in heaven as they bring a real voyeuristic feel to a handful of scenes and keep the viewer on the edge of their seat and guessing while others create a more intimate feel as we’re treated to some key character moments and performances, all of which add up to a beautiful film from start to finish.

Occasional unsavory character moments aside, Jim Cummings has crafted a darkly hilarious, uniquely offbeat and wonderfully engrossing monster whodunnit with The Wolf of Snow Hollow that opens the door for fresh new takes on classic monster horror creatures.

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