Jim Cummings’ second feature film “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” attempts an offbeat mix of horror and comedy, but its two very different elements do not click as well as intended. On one hand, it wants to be your average scary werewolf horror film, but, despite some obligatory moments of shock and terror, it is not particularly compelling or interesting. On the other hand, it also wants to be a character comedy about one pathetic man-child hero with emotional issues, but, it only becomes a weak and tiresome one-joke comedy as being placed right next to the gory aspects of the horror part of the movie.
Cummings, who also wrote the screenplay, plays John Marshall, a police officer of a rural town named Snow Hollow. When he is introduced around the beginning of the film, he is attending an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting which happens to be held right below his workplace, and it is quite apparent to us that he is still struggling a lot with several emotional issues including his recent divorce. As anyone with drinking problem will attest, that is not a very good sign for any alcoholic trying to get back on the way to sobriety, and then he finds himself distracted by what is suddenly going on at his workplace right now.
As already shown to us during the prologue scene, a gruesome murder case happened at the previous night, and Marshall and other police officers are aghast at how savagely the victim was mutilated. On the surface, it seems that some very twisted dude committed this heinous deed, but there are some strange things at the crime scene. For example, there is a big footprint of some animal, and, not so surprisingly, one of Marshall’s colleagues later suggests that the victim was actually killed by a werewolf.
Marshall does not believe that preposterous possibility at all, but then his town is soon shaken by another horrible case of murder and body mutilation, which certainly attracts more attention from the world outside. While the media including a local newspaper have a field day on the possibility of a crazy serial killer lurking somewhere in the town, Marshall becomes more pressured than before as trying to get things under control, but the situation surrounding his case only gets worse as days go by.
Meanwhile, Marshall’s private matters keep troubling him as usual. Although he has been sick of his ex-wife since his divorce, he still cares about their adolescent daughter, but he and his daughter Jenna (Chloe East) have been quite estranged from each other without much interaction between them, and they will be drifted apart from each other more once she goes to a college far from their hometown. In case of his father, who is also the sheriff of the town, he also does not interact that well with his son, and he also stubbornly insists on keeping working as usual despite his current serious health problem.
The only consolation for Marshall comes from Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome), one of his fellow officers who really wants to solve the case just like her colleague. While trying to support her colleague as much as she can, she also attempts to gather useful clues which may lead them to any potential suspect, but, not so surprisingly, they keep going nowhere with that growing possibility on the existence of a werewolf in their town.
However, Cummings’ screenplay deliberately focuses more on Marshall’s increasingly troubled emotional state without paying much attention to the mystery in the story. Besides showing the entity responsible for those atrocious killings a bit too early, the movie also gives us a possible suspect in advance, and I was quite disappointed by the contrived solution clumsily thrown later in the story.
Furthermore, the movie also stumbles a lot as a character comedy. The main characters are more or less than broad caricatures, and, to make matters worse, the movie fails to flesh out them with enough sense of life or personality to draw our attention. While Cummings tries really hard to sell his character, Marshall is no more than an unpleasant and uninteresting alcoholic jerk in my humble opinion, and many neurotic moments of his are monotonously shrill without much character development. As a result, we come to observe Marshall’s emotional struggle from the distance without any care or attention, and that is one of the reasons why the finale, which is accompanied with a certain familiar seasonal song, does not work at all.
In case of the other main characters, they are also rather bland and superficial, but some of them leave some impression thanks to the performers playing them. While Riki Lindhome manages to acquit herself well despite her thankless role, Chloe East brings some common sense to her several scenes with Cummings, and Robert Forster, a great character actor who sadly passed away in 2019 before the movie was released in last year, ably fills his supporting role with his own presence.
Although it is not wholly without good elements to notice, “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is one or two steps down from Cummings’ first feature film “Thunder Road” (2018). While that film amused me enough, “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” somehow annoyed and frustrated me at times, and now my mind keeps going back to “Werewolves Within” (2021), which did a better job of mixing horror and comedy within its own werewolf story. Maybe you can enjoy “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” more than me, but I would rather recommend you “Werewolves Within” instead if you really want some nice thrill and good laughs.