The Wolf of Snow Hollow (2020)
★★★★ / ★★★★
“The Wolf of Snow Hollow” tells the story of a man who struggles with a disease. When the beast takes over, he becomes unrecognizable even to those who are closest to him. When challenged and pushed to a corner, he retaliates by bringing on the hurt. And when he feels he is no longer in control, he proves to have a knack for going for the kill because he is observant and sensitive underneath the police uniform. Officer John Marshall (Jim Cummings) is an alcoholic. And his latest case involves having to hunt for a serial killer who is believed by some to be a werewolf.
Cummings writes, directs, and stars in this gem of a horror-comedy: riotously funny one minute, horrifyingly gruesome the next, and lodged in between are moments of genuine humanity. John is a father, a son, a police officer, and a man whom the town looks up to for leadership and assurance when things go horribly wrong. Although John has these roles, he is unable to fulfill or excel at them—not even a single one. And so, feeling most inadequate, he goes home and turns to what he knows best: being an alcoholic. Down he goes the rabbit hole. The next day begins and he finds himself a foot deeper into the unsolved case. The vicious cycle continues.
There is overt violence—women being stalked and attacked under a full moon, their severed body parts and eviscerated organs exposed in daylight as investigators gather evidence and the media fishes for juicy details in time for the six o’clock news—and there is the metaphorical variety described above. Wonderful about the picture is its zen in balancing both; one fails to shine without the other, just like how there can be no comedy without drama. There is never a one-dimensional moment, not even when the werewolf shows itself fully and goes for the jugular.
Alcoholic John is surrounded by people who love and care about him, from his seventeen-year-old daughter (Chloe East) who tries to be understanding even though it is apparent John has always put his job ahead of her, fellow officer Julia Robson (Riki Lindhomme) who always seems to bring a calm to his manic energy, to his father, Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster), who insists on going to work even though his body is beginning to fail him. Through their eyes, we not only learn about our protagonist, we see him clearly when his own mind is invaded by fog. Like Cummings’ brilliant debut film “Thunder Road,” this film is a story of redemption. Despite the gruesome killings, it coruscates with optimism, humor, and pathos.
Particularly outstanding is its editing. The more pressure is inflicted upon John, the more fragmented the images are put together. It creates an impression that the subject is drowning, splashing about madly, desperately gasping for precious air. Yet, like a classic alcoholic, John fails to ask for help. Jokes are built upon John’s inadequacies, histrionics, and fears. But these jokes prove informative because there are deep truths to them. The screenplay tasks us to be like the trio who love and care for John: We must separate the monster from the man.