THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW movie poster | ©2020 Orion Classics

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW movie poster | ©2020 Orion Classics

Rating: R
Stars: Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, Robert Forster, Jimmy Tatro, Anna Sward
Writer: Jim Cummings
Director: Jim Cummings
Distributor: Orion Classics
Release Date: October 9, 2020

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is not, as the title might suggest, a Christmas animal movie or a story about a voracious financial titan in a small community. Instead, directed and written by Jim Cummings, the film lands somewhere between horror, quirky, and occasionally sincere. To say that it feels like an attempt to do a Coen Brothers version of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS overstates things a bit, but that’s the general sensibility.

Up front, we get the word “Werewolf” in big red letters, so the audience knows roughly where we’re going. Sheriff’s deputy John (filmmaker Cummings) stubbornly refuses to buy into the notion that something supernatural is stalking this cozy, snowy Utah resort town. Then again, John is stubbornly resisting many other things, including sobriety, parenting his seventeen-year-old daughter Jenna (Chloe East) over the winter holidays, and coping with the fact that his ailing father, Sheriff Hadley (the late Robert Forster), is risking his health by staying on the job.

We see a creature that looks like something out of THE HOWLING attack several young women. The actual kills are largely offscreen, but the murders are so gruesome that even the police are revolted. Locals are angry that the sheriff’s department isn’t solving the case quicker. John thinks they’re looking at a human serial killer who hates women, but some of his colleagues think it could be, well, a werewolf.

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW is to a large extent a character study. John is aware of his failings as a son, a father, a lawman, and a person, which makes him drink harder and fly off the handle faster, which in turn makes his self-loathing worse. The question is what, if anything, can jolt him onto a path of recovery, and whether that needs to happen for him to solve the case, or if he needs to solve the case so badly that recovery won’t be possible until that happens.

This is actually an interesting question, but sometimes the clashes between John and other people – his colleagues, his fellow AA members, his daughter – feel a hair too broad. They don’t tip into farce, exactly, but it seems like these might be both funnier and more affecting if they were quieter. True quiet moments, such as a scene between John and a gentle older deputy (Anna Sward), bear this out.

Cummings as filmmaker likes to play with time, intercutting between nocturnal events and those happening the following morning. He especially likes to play with droll scene transitions, so that a tabletop becomes a door, or a full moon reflected in a paw print becomes the actual celestial body. This adds a certain flavor to the movie, and is fun in its own right.

The storyline has some solid twists, although we never do find out why this is happening now. There’s a hint dropped, but a firmer explanation would be welcome, especially because the resolution is so idiosyncratic. The resolution itself leads to a few more open questions.

The Utah mountain scenery is beautiful – those still suffering from October heat may welcome the snowy vistas in terms of being able to cool off at least mentally. Another perk is a full orchestra performing Ben Lovett’s well-conceived musical score.

Cummings does a good job of carrying the proceedings. Forster is affecting in one of his final roles as the determined sheriff, Riki Lindhome makes a strong impression as one of John’s more reliable peers, and East persuasively conveys the anxieties and frustrations of the daughter’s predicament.

THE WOLF OF SNOW HOLLOW won’t be for everyone. However, it’s different enough and crafted artfully enough to be worth watch for those in the mood for some variety.

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