FANTASTIC FEST 2020: ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’

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The Wolf of Snow Hollow

The monsters we know are shapeshifters and it seems that the older we get, the more monsters we see around us. It makes you pine for the days when the only monster you worried about was the figment under your bed or the scratching branch on your bedroom window. As we grow old, more jaded, monsters start to become many-headed creatures in the form of institutions we no longer trust any figures that represent the worst of us. Sometimes monsters live closer to home and sneer back at us when we look in the mirror. The Wolf of Snow Hollow faces down all of these monsters and more in a frosty and atmospheric horror. The film has all the trappings of a great werewolf film and crime drama, with vague Wind River sensibilities and a lot of energy. Sometimes, more energy than it knows what to do with.

The small mountain town of Snow Hollow finds itself in the cold grip of terror, following a string of attacks and brutal murders. The killer, is it a man or a monster? The police, can they stop the killer before anybody else is killed? The light of the moon shines a harsh light on an overworked police force, a distrustful population, and one terrible death after another. The only thing between the people of Snow Hollow and gruesome bloody death is Officer Marshall – a beleaguered recovering alcoholic juggling the impending death of his aging father, the burdens of raising a daughter, and shouldering the responsibility of defending the townspeople that all think they could do a better job.

Jim Cummings is serving up a triple threat as a writer, director, and star of The Wolf of Snow Hollow. The film also features performances from Riki Lindhome, Chloe East, Jimmy Tatro, and the late Robert Forster.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow instantly distinguishes itself with its chilling and vast atmosphere. There is a frosty and isolating stillness to the world of Snow Hollow that instantly sets into your bones. It bodes well for a horror film to start with an actual shiver down the spine. In many ways, The Wolf of Snow Hollow vaguely mimics the better qualities of a Western. It’s man versus nature versus vast and infinite wilderness. A posse of well-meaning but outgunned lawmen is laying it all on the line. This mix of a neo-Western with a monster forward crime drama is an exciting foundation to work off of.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow

All of that being said, the icy start to The Wolf of Snow Hollow is partially thawed by the film’s high energy and humor. The small-town feel of the somewhat bumbling police force softens the harder edges of the film. These characters are flawed and they’re funny. The film bills itself as a Horror/Crime/Comedy and, for better or for worse, it wears each of those aspects equally.

On the one hand, the energetic and quippy performances prevent the film from slipping into miserable bleakness. The injected lightness is needed and brings the viewer into the intimacy of this very small community. On the other hand, it occasionally undercuts the horror elements of the film to linger on the petty squabblings of these people. Further, it dilutes any significant conversation by pausing to awkwardly laugh at the heavy circumstances that the audience has just been asked to process.

Scattered is a good word to gather up my more critical thoughts on The Wolf of Snow Hollow. The tone is scattered. The range of humor to hefty is wide and most of the audience’s time is spent being dragged back and forth between the extremes. The editing is equally jumpy, which isn’t necessarily the worst thing happening in The Wolf of Snow Hollow but it adds another layer of viewer whiplash. Going back to that foundation of wintery horror, this critic pines for that grounded solemnity. Less is more when it comes to quirky maneuvers.

It’s fortunate and significant that The Wolf of Snow Hollow manages to wrangle itself together in one particular area — the monster. Of course, there’s the obvious threat of the titular Wolf. This literal monster is shrouded in mystery but with enough horrifying teases to keep the audience and the characters on their toes. It’s a great creature and given exactly the right presence to be a concern but not a distraction.

As you may have guessed by now, the Wolf isn’t the only monster present in the film. This isn’t a story about a werewolf hunt. It’s about Officer Marshall facing the monster that he has become. Officer Marshall is wrestling with himself — his anxieties, his shortcomings, his weaknesses, his temper. Marshall recognizes himself as a monster and chasing down the literal monster that threatens his community forces him to confront and conquer himself in the process. It’s a well-done exploration of the monstrous self and Officer Marshall has the presence of a more cheeky Chief Brody (JAWS). A well-crafted “monster” to rival the howling fiend at the center of the mystery.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is an imperfect film. A little muddled in tone and trying to be too many things at once. I prefer to remove the comedy element from my read of the film and enjoy The Wolf of Snow Hollow as a chilling winter tale. Menacing and shadowy, it’s a thrill to be caught in the jaws of The Wolf of Snow Hollow.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is an imperfect film. A little muddled in tone and trying to be too many things at once. I prefer to remove the comedy element from my read of the film and enjoy The Wolf of Snow Hollow as a chilling winter tale. Menacing and shadowy, it’s a thrill to be caught in the jaws of The Wolf of Snow Hollow.