Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW
Rated R, 84 minutes
Directed by: Jim Cummings
Filmmaker Jim Cummings’ THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is a little like FARGO, with its richly drawn denizens and similar tonal nuances, comingling with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, with its pathos and drawing power. The horror-dramedy focuses on a tightly-wound officer’s quest to solve the grisly murders plaguing his small town during the full moon cycle prior to ski season. Housing cleverly conceived characters grappling with properly-defined struggles, a riveting mystery that sustains itself, and a perfect atmospheric aesthetic, it delivers the bloody goods and is bound to open up on future repeat viewings.
The sleepy, snow-blanketed town of Snow Hollow, Utah has had its fair share of visitors before. A popular tourist destination in the winter months attracts a certain crowd. However, this particular winter may have lured a folkloric beast out of its dormancy. At least that’s how it first appears to the local cops investigating the horrific homicide of a female vacationer. Since Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster) is retiring soon, his son John Marshall (Cummings) is next in line for the job and hoping to make his mark with this case. He’s already battling a few personal demons as a recovering alcoholic with a strained relationship with his ex-wife (Rachel Jane Day) and 17-year-old daughter (Chloe East).
The pressure for John to perform as the perfect cop, son and father snowballs once another body – a female ski instructor – turns up mutilated bearing similar markings to the first victim. Others on the force like Officers Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome), Guttierrez ( Skyler Bible), Bo (Kevin Changaris) and Chavez (Demetrius Daniels) believe the perpetrator is a werewolf since the evidence points towards that conclusion. But John, being the pragmatist he is, begs to differ as that’s not a reasonable explanation. Lycanthropes don’t exist. He’s driven to the brink of a nervous breakdown attempting to keep his daughter safe, prove he’s right and solve these crimes as a killer continues their spree.
Much like in his previous directorial feature THUNDER ROAD, Cummings paints and portrays his protagonist as an arrogant-cum-admirable lawman who yields his passive-aggressiveness like a blunt force object. He digs deep and deconstructs the character’s faults, foibles, and eccentricities in a refreshing way, showing layered vulnerabilities. His composed, handsome outward appearance provides a striking juxtaposition to the ugliness of his inner demons. It’s gratifying to see a leading man who’s unafraid of showing imperfections, upending the macho bravado and blowhard bluster of many other police procedurals.
The kills hold a modicum of fun and dazzle in the way Cummings teases out the tension of the scenes. He’s not fearful of displaying the imposing, dangerous creature early. It’s effectively scary seeing it in each of those sequences. The bigger, trickier monsters to capture on screen are Jon’s internal and external conflicts, and he does so with aplomb – aided by cinematographer Natalie Kingston’s impeccable lighting and editors Patrick Nelson Barnes and R. Brett Thomas’ gorgeous dissolves, which all work in concert to give the picture a tangible throwback texture.
THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW opens in theaters and on demand on October 9.