‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’ Reminds Us How Fun Werewolves Can Be (FILM REVIEW)

  

Rating: B+

Whatever the reason, werewolves have fallen out of fashion in today’s cultural market. Perhaps it’s just that we’re over them; the myths have been around for as long as we’ve been telling each other stories, and maybe we’ve just outgrown them as a species.

Or maybe it’s simpler than that. Maybe there just haven’t been any good werewolf stories for too many years. Nothing to catch the zeitgeist the way that The Wolfman once did or the way that zombies, vampires, and witches still do. There has been a considerable lack of pop cultural touchstones over the last few decades. There was Benecio Del Toro’s unfairly maligned turn in the remake of The Wolfman back in 2010. There were the wolves in Twilight. And, of course, the oft-forgotten Hemlock Grove from Netflix.

Beyond that, the last real cultural touchpoint we have is An American Werewolf in London, the classic film from John Landis which turns 40 next year. So maybe the decline in lycanthropy in modern horror has something to do with how little we see werewolves compared to their monstrous counterparts.

All of which is to say that while I’m not sure that The Wolf of Snow Hollow, the latest film from writer/director Jim Cummings, is going to put werewolves back in the center of the cultural conversation, but it is absolutely a firm reminder of how much fun we could have been having for all these years.

The film follows Officer John Marshall (Cummings, pulling a triple turn) as his sleepy mountain resort town of Snow Hollow finds itself in the grips of a gruesome murderer, who only shows up when the moon is full. As evidence mounts regarding the potential supernatural nature of the killer, Marshall finds himself pulled between solving the case, which has the whole state of Utah up in arms, dealing with the failing health of his father, the sheriff (Robert Forster, in his final role), troubles with his ex-wife and daughter, and the temptation to backslide into his alcoholic ways.

The core of The Wolf of Snow Hollow isn’t so much the exploration of potential lycanthropy as it is a character study of the flawed Officer Marshall. Cummings has a keen understanding how character informs the drama of a work and, as such, keeps us firmly focused on the slow unravelling of Officer Marshall’s world. While the horrors brought by “The Wolfman of Snow Hollow,” as the killer comes to be known by the town, continue to mount, so too does the pressure on Marshall.

It’s within that mounting pressure that The Wolf of Snow Hollow truly shines. Like all good horror movies, the line between monster and humanity is sufficiently blurred, allowing for a solid exploration on the twisted depths of the human soul. The lingering threat of the werewolf boxes Marshall into a psychologically claustrophobic space from which he constantly threatens to explode.

Added to the mix are all the fun trappings of modern horror, which is increasingly looking back to the past for inspiration. The Wolf of Snow Hollow is chock full of fun practical effects and good ol’ fashioned gore, which serves to tighten the confines of the slowly building horror. Even then, Cummings’s script and direction manages to keep a lighthearted thread running through the film, giving us some great moments of cathartic laughter throughout.

And then there’s Forster. Seeing him here presents a mixed bag of emotions. As superb as he is in this relatively light role, it also hurts to see him again. We lost such an amazing actor with his death last year, and every second of his screen time here reminds us of how much we’re missing from him. As a capstone to a legendary career, it’s fantastic. He gives us everything we ever loved him for and it works as a fantastic swan song for the dearly departed actor.

While at times some of the decisions made in the film, such as the frequent and repetitive funeral scenes intercut with the discovery of the victim’s body, are a bit strange, overall The Wolf of Snow Hollow is as solidly fun as a horror movie can get. Cummings has really stretched himself as a writer and director with this outing and, in the process, made a werewolf movie that reminds us how great werewolf movies can be. Maybe it won’t reach the zenith of the zeitgeist, but it very much feels like a new cult classic.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is now playing in select theaters and is available via On Demand platforms.

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