The Wolf of Snow Hollow
reviewed by Nolan Yard
What are we? Are we human or monsters? Or both? When our steps crunch through snow, perhaps the tracks we leave depend on the moon’s cycle. Certainly, there is tendency to distance monsters from ourselves. They are deemed to exist separate from us, to live in darkest corners of woods, caves, and back alleys. And yet, while The Wolf of Snow Hollow presents the premise that a werewolf is prowling a small mountain town, the film alludes that there are monsters inside of us that come out when the pressure is on, when we let our guard down, and instead of protecting those close to us, we can attack them like a savage beast.
Jim Cummings—the film’s writer, director, and lead role—plays policeman John Marshall who heads investigation in apprehending a killer, who many believe to be a werewolf. John is a sympathetic, empathetic and—at times hilariously and uncontrollably angry—character who faces a murder case that is muddled and getting negative attention from the local press and majority of townsfolk. While the plot mixes horror with humor, a tactic that doesn’t always pay off, in this iteration it works for those who appreciate such amalgam. The horror parts are carefully crafted and the humor peculiar, random, quirky, occasionally off the cuff and improvised to welcomed effect.
Unsuspectingly, adding to the two aforementioned elements are prescient issues dealt with by lead investigator Marshall—issues that emulate real life struggles and connect with our humanity and also the monsters within us all. Officer Marshall is not just dealing with an evasive, bestial killer and criticism from local citizens. We are first introduced to him in an AA meeting and learn he has been 3 years sober. This soon inauspiciously changes. We learn Marshall is divorced and struggles in his joint-custody relationship not only with his ex-wife, but with his high school senior daughter, who is inclined to loathe him and thinks he cares little for her.
On top of falling off the wagon, spousal and fatherly strife, his mother left him when he was young, and his only parent is his boss, the town Sheriff immaculately portrayed by Robert Forster in one of his last roles. Marshall’s father cannot fulfill his duties as he is geriatric and suffering long-secret heart complications. Though the Sheriff puts on the uniform, he can do little else, so Marshall feels bound to fill his father’s shoes, all with the baggage of anxiety for his only-parent’s health and failure in the ongoing investigation. Issues of ageism, father and son confrontations on health and personal matters, and knowing when to call it quits are examined, brocading this horror and humor romp with subtext, pathos, and unexpected existentialism.
On the surface the film is a fun and thrilling ride, and while it speaks to the monsters that go bump in the night, it also frames the monsters within us. The stress of it all brings out Officer Marshall’s monsters. The drink comes back. Though he has a team of close and oft clumsy deputies, with the exception being loyal Officer Julia Robson played by Riki Lindhome, Marshall lashes out at them. Even his father and college-bound daughter face his anger issues, with the latter bearing the brunt of his verbal flare-ups and hurling of bottles. As a friend, colleague, son, and father, Marshall fills the role of none of these. The stress has made him forget who he is, and all that’s left is the monster—a salient theme in which we all can relate. How many times have we let the stress of things beyond our control damage our most coveted and closest relationships? The task at hand is to unmask the monster, to keep the beast within at bay.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is for fans of horror laced with comedy, as the promotions and trailers for the film describe. Regular viewers and cinephiles alike get an added bonus—relatable real life issues depicted in well-executed scenes. Those who get easily queasy may want to refocus their gaze in the first few murder scenes. Those who don’t like quirky, awkward humor that makes lightness of uber serious situations may not “get it.” However, if you go into a horror-comedy film expecting normal non-explicit blood and humor, then you are in denial. This one’s for fans of blood, guts, small town bumbling cops and citizens, mystery with murderous suspects, and monsters in the woods and inside us. Your hackles will raise, you will have laughs, you will relate to characters, and you will be glad.