Writer/Director/Star Jim Cummings follows up his critically-acclaimed debut Thunder Road by exploring many of the same themes he tackled with that story as he transitions into the realm of genre filmmaking. Cummings once again plays an unstable cop who is contending with a potential nervous breakdown and an aging parent who is closer to the end than not. In The Wolf of Snow Hollow, the titular town is a sleepy little destination spot for those wanting to take a relaxing ski vacation. The setting is downright idyllic until young women begin to be killed and dismembered with increasing frequency. For a town that until recently only had to deal with a notable crime every couple of years, these violent acts send a panic throughout the community. Most unsettled of all is the aging town sheriff (Robert Forester in his final role), who finds the brutality a bit much to take in the face of competing health issues. It is up to his deputy son John (Jim Cummings) and his squad to figure who or what is responsible for these heinous acts of violence.
John is battling some internal demons as he struggles with his sobriety and some major anger issues stemming from a split with his wife. With his daughter (Chloe East) arriving to stay with him at the same time these bodies start popping up and his dad seems more frail than ever, the movie presents John as a man hanging by a string. Nothing about these killings make any sense, and John is definitely not in a place where he is willing to hear conjecture that the attacks seem animal in nature – perhaps wolf-like? Although the general story is dramatic, Cummings offers up copious amounts of pitch black comedy that mostly works to keep the story believably unbelievable. Many a verbal (and sometimes physical) beatdown is unleashed when his team fails to live up to the serviceable standards he expects from them. Women are dying, and he needs to be the one to catch whoever is committing these crimes – he needs something stable in his life.
The performance from Cummings as John is very strong, but he often seems out of sync with the rest of the ensemble. The town of Snow Hollow is filled with richly-defined idiosyncratic characters that feel lived-in even in the briefest of exchanges. From the nonplussed coroner who could probably stand to be a bit more professional to the woke-boyfriend of the initial victim (a hilarious Jimmy Tatro), Cummings proves to be gifted at crafting impactful characters. The most effective example of this is the other sheriff’s deputy Julia (Riki Lindhome), the real MVP of the squad who has a strong intuition that serves her well more often than not. Lindhome is sharp in her delivery of the investigative facts as well as her darkly comedic retorts. Hers is not the most showy performance in the film, but it is the strongest. Cummings, while expertly embodying the deteriorating stability of alcoholism, does not quite gel with the ensemble as he delivers a fevered performance that leaves you wondering if his eventual drunken blackouts could be a sign of something more.
While the darkly humorous underpinnings may serve the believability of the story, the movie never quite goes far enough in its execution to make the comedic and horrific soar equally. For a film ostensibly about a werewolf, the moments of genuine terror amount to nearly zero. If a little more care had been taken to keep the audience on edge about the killings, it would have made the humorous exchanges that much more funny. The Wolf of Snow Hollow is not a movie that needed to be exploitative, but Cummings is a talented enough director to conjure tension in a multitude of ways. Despite some minor disappointment in this regard, the movie is ultimately quite a fun achievement that is very entertaining throughout its runtime. Cummings is really effective behind the camera and his script tackles issues of alcoholism in a way that is effective. His use of practical effects in the film does wonders to keep things on the right side of enjoyable, as well. The film may not be perfect, but it represents another solid effort from a creative figure that clearly has a strong future ahead of him.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow comes to Blu-Ray with an eye-popping 1080p presentation that makes the movie look simply great. The film is filled with gorgeous cinematography conveying intense isolation that is presented with perfect clarity on this disc. From the many brightly lit snowy scenes to the darker, shadowy sequences, the skin tones and facial details are incredibly rendered in an expert manner. Subtle facial features are readily visible, and the minute details of the wolf lend to intricate textures on display. Colors from the blood and clothing pop off the screen alongside the varied winter landscapes. Black levels are deep and never betray the objects on screen despite a generally hazy aesthetic. No instances of compression artifacts or other digital anomalies crept up during the viewing. This is an immaculate presentation for a visually engrossing film.
The Blu-Ray disc comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that handles everything that is thrown at it with ease. The film is primarily dialogue driven, but there are some creepy atmospheric effects and an immersive score that will give your speakers something substantial to work with. There is some nice ambient activity in the rear channels, especially during scenes taking place outdoors. The dialogue primarily stays in front center channels and is reproduced clearly. The track does a good job of making sure neither sound effects nor the score ever overpowers any dialogue. The score brings a richness to the story that fills up the room on this track. There are sporadic jolts of action that inject some heft to the low end that is appreciated in a film such as this one. This track has a substantial dynamic range that should please fans.
- The Impetus: A minute-long promotional piece in which director and star Jim Cummings discusses what he was trying to accomplish with the film.
- Working with Jim Cummings: A two-minute featurette in which the cast and crew discuss what it’s like to work with Cummings as a director as well as a scene partner.
- The Story and the Genre: A four-minute featurette in which the cast and crew discuss bringing respect back to the werewolf genre as well as how it plays into the struggle of alcoholism. This is brief, but there are some good insights into the story as a whole.
- The Design of the Werewolf: A nearly six-minute look at what went into creating the werewolf from the costume fitting and getting a mould of the head to practicing the movements and putting everything together. This is by far my favorite supplement included here.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is an enjoyable darkly comedic horror film that succeeds more in the comedic realm than the horrific. Creative powerhouse Jim Cummings creates a fully fleshed-out world with compelling characters and engaging themes. The movie has some flaws in its execution, but the experience falls very much on the positive side overall. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has released a Blu-Ray with a strong A/V presentation and a couple of brief special features. Fans of the director or dark comedies in general should find this to be a worthwhile viewing experience. Recommended
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is currently available to purchase on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital.
Note: Images presented in this review are not reflective of the image quality of the Blu-Ray.
Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has supplied a copy of this disc free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are the honest reactions of the author.
Dillon is most comfortable sitting around in a theatre all day watching both big budget and independent movies.