Review by C.J. Bunce
Jim Cummings is a triple threat, a writer/director who also stars in the atmospheric Orion Classics release The Wolf of Snow Hollow. You may recognize Cummings as the brave Deputy Pete McCabe, who pursued Michael Myers in Halloween Kills, but he’s also a jack of all trades, making movies from the ground up as cinematographer and editor and even working on visual effects for Captain America: Winter Soldier. In The Wolf of Snow Hollow he plays Officer John Marshall, No. 2 in line to the sheriff in a small northern town in the vein of Resident Alien, Fargo, or Northern Exposure. Marshall is a recovering alcoholic in a 12-step program, who is the ultimate put-upon working stiff with anger issues, dealing with divorce, a visiting daughter, and incompetent peers when a string of brutal murders plagues his otherwise banal town. And the murders appear to have been carried out by a werewolf. It’s a surprisingly good, tightly edited drama with elements of dark comedy, a smartly paced Alfred Hitchcock-type thriller filled with quirky locals, combined with a musical score as compelling as something from a Bernard Herrmann classic.
Who is killing young women in Snow Hollow? Key in charge of the investigation is Robert Forster in his final big-screen performance as the sheriff–and Officer Marshall’s father. Son won’t let father get too hands-on because he has health issues and is ready for retirement, but joining him in the hands-on footwork of solving the riddle of the wolfman is Riki Lindhome (Knives Out, Con Man, The Muppets, Supernatural) as Officer Robson.
Despite being a “small, independent film,” this is a well-crafted thriller with sequences that raise the film to the level of productions like Zodiac, Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, and Silver Bullet. More entertaining than Fargo, the biggest win is Cummings’ ability to rein in the action, violence, and humor. At every turn he could take the direction, and his cop with anger issues, into over-the-top melodrama of a Coen brothers movie, but despite being nearly entirely one man’s vision it’s never self-indulgent. For that alone, audiences will be lucky to see more from Cummings in the future, as director, writer, actor, or all the above.
Cummings directs himself in scenes where he exhibits nearly every known emotion as he deals with every-day life angst as much as a serial killer. When his character freaks out, it’s a combination of a kettle blast like a real person might let out, battling the subtle effort to hold it all in. The result is a few brilliantly life-like explosions as he repeatedly fails to find the killer and lets down his town, friends, and family. And Lindhome pulls equal weight as the movie’s co-lead, investigating the crime while keeping Marshall in line, sneaking to break the fourth wall, delivering a by-the-book cop with a savvy written character (Cummings’ work again) worthy of her own show.
As you’d find in a movie that was supported by a John Williams score, the music of this film is as important as the script or any single character. Ben Lovett′s (The Night House) score takes its influence from Bernard Herrmann swells and jolts in thrillers like his Hitchcock films and Cape Fear. And Natalie Kingston′s (Lost Bayou) cinematography helps cement this as your next entry on the unlikely Christmas movie list (yes, this could double as a Halloween and Christmas go-to).
It’s a werewolf story, and bodies start piling up, so expect a few bloody visuals. Views of the killer monster are brief for a reason, so the story doesn’t need much by way of special effects–this isn’t An American Werewolf in London but more Silver Bullet. The Blu-ray includes a feature focusing on making the “creature,” along with three other behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Cummings also nicely showcases Robert Forster for his swan song as a strong-willed sheriff with all those suave traits audiences have loved him for. Notable performances include Chloe East (True Blood) as Officer Marshall’s daughter, Kelsey Edwards (Minor Details) as an observant diner, and Daniel Fenton Anderson as a perfectly combative coroner.
Originally released in 2020, this is a great early effort from the newly revamped independent arm of MGM, Orion Classics. You almost can tell something good lies ahead with the Orion logo and classic introductory music from the first image of the picture (Caddyshack, This is Spinal Tap, Amadeus, Dances with Wolves, The Silence of the Lambs, RoboCop, were all Orion releases). A detective thriller, dark comedy, suspense thriller, monster movie, and more, watch The Wolf of Snow Hollow, now streaming here on Prime Video.