The Wolf of Snow Hollow is fresh meat for the werewolf sub-genre
The werewolf is a creature seldom sighted on screen. While the vampire and zombie have proven themselves evergreen staples of the horror subgenre, werewolf films tend to be scarce productions, only appearing once in a full, blue moon. When they do bare their fangs, however, it is often gripping and ferocious. Such is the nature of Jim Cummings’ (Thunder Road) latest beast, which the young maverick directs and stars in across from Riki Lindholm, who gets to shine following tertiary roles in films like last year’s Knives Out, and the late, always-great, Robert Forster.
John Marshall (Cummings) is a small town, small-time policeman trying to hold together his family, his people, and his own sense of reality as a series of unprecedented and brutal maulings shake the snowy little community. John’s profession is one with a certain sense of entitlement to control, to authority. As such, when this is all called into question, his character erupts in a uniquely manic, often darkly hilarious fashion. It is also here where the film finds its emotional core, sometimes deftly balancing, and sometimes splitting the difference between, humor and genuine, abject misery of an alcoholic, out-of-control cop.
The thematic elephant in the room is, of course, how the narrative navigates representing a sympathetic police officer in a climate now hyper-aware of the systemic, real-world abuses within the profession. It’s something which is not impossible to navigate—the isolated, small-potatoes setting helps, but the aims the film takes at social commentary often feel like they miss the mark. Much of the distrust of police in the film seems misdirected, pointing to only superficial failings of the police institution which do not gesture to any broader awareness of, as many characters iterate, “why people don’t like cops right now.” Nevertheless, it is easy to see that an effort was made, even if much of it trips over performativity.
The drama itself, on the other hand, is much sharper. The relationship lines are drawn between all of the characters in Marshall’s orbit play with sincerity and tenderness that is rare to find in a film already trying to strike the horror-comedy balance. It mostly does so by being so damned savvy in regards to genre and tonal influences, wearing Silence of the Lambs and American Werewolf in London hats with equal style. This, however, is not to say that the film is not also playful and thoughtful about the specific subgenre it operates in, with a slow twist that pays off with both tension and punchiness.
Monster movies can be a difficult thing to wrangle, especially when using them to frame a tense procedural rather than present them as something to shovel popcorn to. In an unexpected twist for both this year and the monster subgenre, The Wolf of Snow Hollow has got it where it counts: in its humor, in its heart, and most of all in its bite.