“The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is a strange beast of a werewolf film with as much humor as horror — a surprise delight you may have missed.
Released in October of 2020 (yeah, the year where shit all went sideways), The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a movie I had every intention of watching just as soon as it premiered. Filmed in my home state of Utah, nominated for five horror awards, and featuring a score by Ben Lovett (whose work I genuinely enjoy), it seemed like the perfect slow-burn horror film to help bolster a very Corona-stunted Halloween.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the cinema screens, and the film got lost in the shuffle and grind of daily life. I have nobody but myself to blame.
Thankfully, Shudder has it in rotation (and has for a while), which meant I could finally rectify the mistake of two years ago.
I’m glad I did.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is an enjoyably off-kilter experience — equal parts horror and comedy, though neither of those aspects comes across quite the way you’d expect.
The film’s IMDb synopsis is as follows:
Terror grips a small mountain town as bodies are discovered after each full moon. Losing sleep, raising a teenage daughter, and caring for his ailing father, officer Marshall struggles to remind himself there’s no such thing as werewolves.
Sure, that summary is “technically” accurate, but there’s more to it than that; quite a bit more, actually.
Starting out the way one would expect, with an out-of-town vacationing couple potentially running afoul of ignorant locals (and a bloody incident later that evening by the light of a full moon), the film quickly veers a little to the left, establishing an irreverent tone while covering its strong horror underpinnings with a thick coat of off-beat and relatively dry humor.
In all honesty, it’s a tonal mishmash that simply shouldn’t work… yet director Jim Cummings somehow manages to pull it off.
I can’t lie. There were moments early on when I was almost expecting a Tucker & Dale vs. Evil vibe. But, no, it’s not that kind of movie.
To be fair, you’ve seen much of this film’s framework in other releases: the small-town police force in way over its head, the recovering addict who loses himself in his work, the estranged and rebellious daughter, the requisite weirdo locals. None of these additions to The Wolf of Snow Hollow are particularly novel.
Instead, it’s the way that Jim Cummings veers around these tropes (and occasionally attacks them head-on) that provides much of the film’s enjoyment.
Take, for example, the officers of the sheriff’s department themselves. They are arguably no more competent than the peace officers of Super Troopers, but it’s Officer Marshall (played by Jim Cummings as well) who keeps wondering why he’s surrounded by the modern equivalent of Keystone cops. Sometimes to the point where he is actively pleading with them just to do their jobs.
This is not played for slapstick comedy but rather an exasperated and over-the-top frustration that is hilarious in its relatability.
Segments like these prove just how much of a strange beast (pun intended) The Wolf of Snow Hollow is.
Plenty of comedic moments abound, some subtle, others not so much.
There are even scenes that feel as though they were ripped straight from something like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (everyone is just yelling at each other), but then we get another build-up to a horror moment, and we are reminded that, yes, this is still also a werewolf movie.
The cast is eclectic and largely spot-on with their portrayals.
Jim Cummings does excellent as an everyman officer surrounded by terrible events. Looking a little like a young Tommy Lee Jones, Cummings’ often deadpan delivery is funny without seeming like he’s trying too hard.
With a failed marriage, an estranged daughter, grisly murders, an ailing father, and the specter of alcoholism all hanging over his head, it’s no wonder why he’s at the end of his tether. He also possesses one expressive face, a trait that he uses to great effect.
Riki Lindhome (of Garfunkle & Oates fame; look them up on YouTube, trust me) plays Officer Julia Robson, the only competent member of the sheriff’s department. With a more understated performance, Lindhome still makes her secondary character shine. Just look for the scene when Marshall, quite earnestly, asks her if women have been dealing with toxic masculinity since the Dark Ages (the look she gives him in response is priceless).
Robert Forster (in one of his last appearances) plays Marshall’s father and the town’s current sheriff, with a slightly befuddled air. He’s not in the film much, but he makes the most of his scenes.
Marshall’s daughter is played by Chloe East, who has quite a film and television oeuvre, and she acquits herself well in a largely second-note role. The bit players and supporting cast all pull their weight as well.
As for the movie’s antagonist, Cummings wisely keeps shots of the creature itself to a minimum, a choice that heightens the impact when we are afforded glimpses of it.
There’s nothing particularly fresh about the monster, and most of the gore is relegated to police crime scene photos and general discussions. But it’s a compelling villain nonetheless. Especially given the monster’s size and ferocity.
I only struggled with a few parts of the film.
Primarily, there’s no real weight given to the time frame in which these events are transpiring. Some of the attacks seem to take place over the course of successive days, while others are clearly stretched out into the following month or months.
Also, considering how some of the victims are killed and maimed, it seemed like more would be happening in the background. It seemed those little tidbits were leading up to something else besides just a creature feature.
I kept waiting for an appropriately spine-chilling grand reveal, and when nothing of the sort materialized, I found myself somewhat disappointed.
On the technical side of the house, I have no nitpicks. Clocking in at a brisk eighty-five minutes, The Wolf of Snow Hollow does not overstay its welcome. The snowy Utah ski town locale is perfect, and the film is framed and shot well. Dialogue is clear, the sound design is well-executed, scene transitions are smooth and happen when they should, and the costuming is on point.
I do have to laugh, though, because whether by mistake or design, the production crew managed to film a movie in Utah where almost NOBODY really feels like they’re from Utah. It’s a hard thing to explain to folks who haven’t spent any significant time here, but it’s noticeable to a long-time resident.
When it comes to the music, the movie undeniably sticks the landing.
I have to give huge props to Ben Lovett for his stellar soundtrack.
You’ve heard his work before, whether on Netflix’s excellent (and one of my favs) The Ritual, 2021’s The Night House, or the recent Hellraiser remake. There is also a thoroughly creepy rendition of Little Red Riding Hood, performed by singer-songwriter Valen, that fits beautifully with the rest of the music.
Needless to say, this particular soundtrack will be on frequent rotation at my house.
Occasionally poking fun at the very genres it is emulating and sometimes casting a spotlight on a few ugly and uncomfortable facets of life, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a film that travels just off the beaten path.
It’s neither super terrifying nor laugh-out-loud funny nor does it linger too long on any one message or criticism.
It is, however, very worthy of a watch. It’s a film that dares to take an atypical approach, and I have nothing but admiration for directors who are willing to try something different.
Cummings, who also directed 2018’s indie-darling Thunder Road, has recently released a new psychological thriller/dark comedy entitled The Beta Test. With this latest looking like a mashup of Eyes Wide Shut and American Psycho, he is absolutely a director worth keeping an eye on.