Before we get into the review, a little story:
Back in college I was lucky enough to attend a seminar hosted by Sundance. The panel focused on finding funding for producing your films and featured several insightful speakers who gave me a glimpse into the world of independent filmmaking. While attending I spoke briefly with one of the presenters, who was working on developing a successful short film he had wrote, directed and starred in into a feature length film. I didn’t think much of it at first, wished him luck, and went on my way.
A few years later I found his film and gave it a watch with friends. To this day it’s one of my favorite films of the last decade.
Thunder Road, written, directed and performed by Jim Cummings.
Proving that money doesn’t always make the movie, Cummings was able to produce this incredible film without Hollywood backing or a major studio behind him. It’s a darkly funny tale that has permanently cemented his style in my mind and I only love it more with each viewing. Since then, I was highly anticipating his next film while knowing it would be incredibly difficult to top Thunder Road. Keeping my expectations in check, I was excited to hear his next film would be a horror comedy, two genres I have a deep respect for. Releasing in 2020, I unfortunately wasn’t able to get around to watching it until 2021 was in full swing. Even though it missed out on my The BEST and WORST Films of 2020 list, I’m happy to say it would’ve placed fairly high.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow sees a small ski town terrorized by terrible murders, believed by some to be perpetrated by a wolfman. Officer John Marshall attempts to get to the bottom of these crimes, but is fractured by his sheriff father’s ailing health, the disrespect of his coworkers, his daughter distancing herself from him, and his own personal demons beginning to resurface. Jim Cummings is once again in the director/writer/actor chair, bringing with him a similar style of storytelling and a much larger budget. Even with the extra money behind it, it’s easy to see the familiarities between this and Thunder Road. Maybe it’s a bit too familiar, as the similarities may come to be seen as narrative crutches for Cummings rather than staples of his style. It may be too soon to tell with how new he is to the game, but the cautionary seeds have already been planted.
Pulling triple duty once again, Cummings as John Marshall, like his role in Thunder Road, is so insanely entertaining to watch. Cranking up his assholery to 11, Marshall ultimately tries to do what’s right for his town while also picking fights with his fellow officers and snidely chastising townsfolk. The only thing that keeps us wanting to see him succeed is the simultaneous desire to watch him get his ass kicked, which happens quite a bit. I feel like an entire movie of Cummings just yelling and breaking down is right up my alley, but he still manages to sneak other human emotions in other than pain and anger. Despite my love of his performance, I couldn’t ignore the parallels to his character from Thunder Road. A brash, hot tempered cop just trying to do the right thing while attempting to raise his distanced daughter with an estranged ex-wife breathing down his neck? It’s been done before by the writer/director/actor, and one can’t help but wonder if he has anything else to offer outside this archetype, no matter how entertaining it may be.
Opting to share the spotlight this time around, the town of Snow Hollow is populated by great performances that all center around one thing: giving John Marshall hell. Robert Forster gives a touching last performance as Sheriff Hadley, Marshall’s aging father that refuses to step away from the force. The two have a touching, if not volatile, relationship that I wish would have been more at the forefront of the film. Riki Lindhome plays rising officer Julia Robson, someone who begins to pick up the slack and step up as Marshall’s life slowly begins to crumble. A secondary protagonist, Julia’s determination against the odds of a potential werewolf tearing through her town is one of the few shimmers of hope we get during this hilariously grim tale. The rest of the characters are either there to yell at Marshall or get yelled at by Marshall essentially. There’s a lot of yelling in this film in case you haven’t caught on.
But what’s a horror film without a little bit of horror? The decision to portray the titular werewolf through practical effects rather than CGI is a huge positive, looking terrifying and rooted in reality. Though you don’t get to see much of it, it’s always impressive to see when the film does take the time to show it in all its glory. Despite a cool monster, the film only delves into scary territory every so often, usually in the form of the wolf stalking its latest victim. These moments are brief and chaotic, but rarely tense. Assuming the film attempted to pay homage to the werwolf genre rather than trying to re-invent it, we rarely see any new ideas on display here. There’s a bit of a twist to it, but by the end it doesn’t exactly feel like any detective work was done to get to the bottom of the mystery. The resolution just falls in the character’s laps, as if the movie knew it needed to wrap itself up in someway. While the final confrontation has the most spine-tingling scene in the film (heavy Zodiac vibes), the ending is unsatisfyingly bleak, but not in the way you would expect a horror film to be. I couldn’t help but feel a lack of emotional closure was missing, something I admired from Cumming’s previous film.
It’s going to be hard to top Thunder Road, but I admire Cummings’ dedication to his style and craft. Despite its shortcomings, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a fantastically funny addition to the horror-comedy genre. You won’t find much innovation in terms of storytelling, but if you’re a fan of the director’s previous work then you’re sure to love this. With such a distinctive voice in terms of dialogue and editing, Jim Cummings continues to remain one of my favorite up and coming actors in the independent scene. He seems to understand the confines of where he does his best work, and I can only hope he continues to find ways to bring is unique style to audiences who have yet to be introduced by him. No matter your opinion of him, Cummings is out telling the stories he wants to tell, finding a way to make it happen with little to no studio big wigs interfering with the steering of the ship. I tip my hat to him for that, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.
As the weight of several grisly murders begin to drag Officer John Marshall down, the vices of his past begin to rear their ugly head. A recovering alcoholic, Marshall tries to slyly get his fix with a classic technique: hiding a flask of whiskey and pouring it into your coffee. For us responsible drinkers out there, we have a spin on this concoction that tastes better and is nowhere near as depressing!
- 1.5oz Irish whiskey
- 1.5oz Kahlua
- 1.5oz Bailey’s
- Whipped cream
- Red food dye
- Add a drop of red food dye to a small amount of honey. Mix until red then sit aside.
- Shake alcohol in a shaker with ice.
- Strain drink into rocks glass with ice.
- Top with whipped cream and drizzle with red honey.