The Wolf of Snow Hollow is yet further, winning proof of Jim Cummings’ singular artistic voice.
Much like his debut feature, 2018’s Thunder Road, director-writer-actor Jim Cummings’s The Wolf of Snow Hollow is delightfully off-center, a feathered fish that thrives on its singular weirdness and originality. In broad strokes, his latest offering seems entirely familiar: a series of gruesome murders in a small ski-town appear to be the work of a werewolf, leaving the ill-equipped police force with little time or resources to make sense of the slayings as the bodies quickly pile up. Cummings, however, holds limited concern for this central plot, instead focusing his attention on the man at its center: John Marshall (Cummings), second-in-command on the force and desperately trying to keep a modicum of control in his life. Aside from the aforementioned murders, he is also dealing with an ailing sheriff, who is also his father (the late Robert Forster, in his final screen role), a spiteful ex-wife, a teenage daughter who views him as nothing but a disappointment, disrespectful workers, and a town full of people for whom he is a walking punchline. He also happens to be a recovering alcoholic, which goes about as well as expected once the shit really hits the fan.
It’s hard to adequately describe the commitment Cummings brings to his role; he is a performer who understands the thin line between comedy and tragedy, and is able to toe it with remarkable finesse. It’s a perfectly calibrated performance, one that is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and deeply heartbreaking. If the film itself doesn’t quite handle its tonal shifts as adeptly, even that particular deficit ultimately proves to be one of its charms: there’s an innate appeal to genuinely not knowing what to expect from one scene to the next. The Wolf of Snow Hollow features a playfulness that is too rare in the horror-comedy genre — its tone is pitched at a similar register as films like Tremors or Slither, but proves itself altogether stranger. This approach does result in the central mystery getting sidelined for longer than viewers might want or expect, and frankly, Cummings doesn’t play fair with that particular aspect, setting up something of a whodunnit and then providing little in the way of adequate clues; the big reveal inspires more of a shrug than anything else. He does, however, get strong performances from his game cast, with Forster bringing some surprising gravitas to the father-son dynamic and Riki Lindhome proving a stand out as a fellow officer. But at the end of the day, this is Cummings’ show, a man who will pour milk into his pepper-sprayed eyes with impressive fervor, and who isn’t afraid to score his big climactic showdown to New Year’s Eve staple “Auld Lang Syne.” Performers of true originality are rare, and, put simply, it’s worth enduring the countless, commonplace aerial shots, sweeping across snow-covered vistas, if it leads to the singular presence of Cummings screaming through clenched jaw while knowing, bombastic music cues rise in the background. The Wolf of Snow Hollow may not have all the pieces quite in place, but it offers plenty of proof that Jim Cummings is a distinct artistic voice worth following.