Jim Cummings really loves to cast himself as a cop. In his sophomore directorial offering, he goes for a classic noir rendering of an alcoholic lawman and struggling father: John Marshall, who’s driven to distraction by the weight of a strange series of murders. It’s an emotionally hard-hitting and humorous portrayal that’s at the heart of his wintery horror, The Wolf of Snow Hollow. The chilling and often bloody genre flick also features the iconic Robert Forster in his final performance as Marshall’s long-suffering father and the ailing sheriff of the snowy ski town.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow begins and ends brilliantly. There’s around half an hour in the middle that will divide viewers as Cummings leans into the more human part of his story. Before that happens, though, we get a beautifully shot introduction to Snow Hollow. Epic aerial shots of snowy forests are liable to give you a chill.
The story begins as a young couple ventures to the town for a weekend break. American Vandal’s Jimmy Tatro shows massive range in a small yet vital role as the sole survivor of the romantic trip away. His partner isn’t so lucky, butchered at the hands of a mysterious killer. While most of the police force believes an animal or perhaps even something supernatural is involved, Marshall Jr. is convinced that the killer at large is human.
That mystery, along with John’s struggle with booze, is at the core of The Wolf of Snow Hollow, and it mostly keeps you engaged. Cummings is a talented director with an eye for making the mundane feel extraordinary. It helps that his daughter, Jenna, is played with emotion and attitude by Chloe East. She’s our in-road to John’s obsession and addiction, and she’s wonderful. There’s one particularly powerful scene that will hit hard anyone who’s loved an addict or supported a loved one struggling with addiction. East is the calm heart of the movie while still getting to be a teenager. Her performance grounds John’s arc, which can at times lean into the anxiety-inducing chaos of substance abuse.
Cummings fills John with a level of instability that makes him electric to watch even if it’s not for any good reasons. Forster is wonderful as his father; The Wolf of Snow Hollow marks his last role and it’s a beautiful swan song that he imbues with depth and empathy. Sheriff Marshall is terrified of aging, frozen by the idea of saying goodbye to the life and career he loves. It’s one of the many quiet explorations that gives Snow Hollow so much heart. And it’s unlikely anyone other than Forster could have done so much with such a small but still affecting role.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow does lose its way slightly in the second act as we focus more on John and less on his mission to catch the violent threat to his town. But I found the third act to be supremely satisfying and enjoyable. Without revealing the movie’s secrets, it took a frightfully fun turn I wasn’t expecting; and utilized some very tangible practical effects. A drive-in world premiere at Beyond Fest means some lucky film lovers have checked the movie out. With the nights drawing in and the wind getting colder; The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a surprising and snow-covered chiller to add to your watchlist when it hits small screens on Friday, October 16.
Featured Image: Orion Classics