The Wolf of Snow Hollow is creeping onto VOD at just the right time. Jim Cummings’ sophomore feature–which recently had its world premiere at Beyond Fest–is a Fargo-esque horror farce sent in the Utah skiing town it takes its name from. As well as directing, Cummings plays an alcoholic cop who is tasked with solving a series of gruesome murders that may or may not hint at the arrival of a werewolf to the small town. Though it might seem unusual, his influences were far more eclectic than the lycanthrope films that came before, as I learned when I chatted to him. “Making this, I was watching a lot of stuff like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Seven,” Cummings told me. But it wasn’t just David Fincher grimness he was interested in. “Also Alan Partridge, King of the Hill, and Pixar movies for the way they blend genre.”
If that sounds like an interesting way to research a horror movie, it’s because The Wolf of Snow Hollow is far closer to the comedy of Fargo than it is An American Werewolf in London. And that’s a good thing. The movie manages to traverse the lines between farce and noir; between horror and comedy; without it ever feeling confused or muddled. That balance was key to getting The Wolf of Snow Hollow right in the landscape of horror comedies. “The vast majority of horror movies that come out these days–especially horror comedies–are nothing like this movie,” Cummings explained. “I wanted to make something that stood out. I wanted to make something that wasn’t the kind of average slasher horror movie and that also wasn’t the Judd Apatow comedy stuff.”
Cummings’ chilly noir didn’t exactly bowl me over with laughs. But it does feature the kind of dark subtle humor that fits perfectly within genre work. The chuckles really come from how woefully unequipped the local police force are to deal with the killer in their midst. In a fantastic final act, The Wolf of Snow Hollow cements that thread. Cummings told me he’d been greatly influenced by real life crimes like those of Dennis Rader, otherwise known as the BTK Strangler.
“Many years after his last murder, he was leaving letters to local newspapers and police departments inside of cereal boxes,” Cummings said. The police eventually caught him after a series of ridiculous events. Eventually the police pulled him over and he admitted his crimes via a quip. That dark reality of how abstract and often random the solving of serial murders really is was a driving force behind the film.
As much as the film is imbued with that wry and bleak humor; it’s also a tale about addiction and family. And that core message is something that Cummings hopes people will take away from the film. “People who deal with alcoholism, it’s okay to talk about your problems and to get help,” Cummings shared. “Not everybody’s perfect, you’re gonna fall off the wagon occasionally, especially now. There’s some serious f*cked up stuff happening around the world right now and people are self-medicating. It must be a very difficult time to be an extreme alcoholic right now. And so I think that’s probably the biggest thing. To have somebody say, ‘Here’s some ammunition for you and what you’re going through if you’re going through hell.'”
With so much going on, it might be easy to wonder if the comic noir is for you. Cummings assures fans that it’s also “just a good movie,” he laughed. “The selfish part of me is just glad that we made this gnarly New Years Eve/ Christmas/Halloween scary movie! It’s okay to focus on craft and to make movies with your friends. You can make a movie with a small team and it doesn’t have to be this huge Hollywood production.”
The Wolf of Snow Hollow hits video-on-demand on October 16th.