A murder mystery set in a ski town (and filmed around the Wasatch Mountains) turns out to be a non-traditional mix of horror, comedy and drama. Mark Harrington makes sense of it all for the Friday Film Review.
This week’s film is “Wolf of Snow Hollow”, playing locally at the Redstone 8 and via several online platforms. Filmed in Utah, “Wolf of Snow Hollow” revolves around a series of gruesome murders in a remote ski town. Tourism grinds to halt while the locals try to find out what is happening. Problem one is the local sheriffs are so lackluster they make “Super Troopers” look like the FBI’s best investigative unit by comparison. Problem two is the head sheriff is in failing health and his chief deputy and son battles internal monsters of his own, as well as an increasingly defiant teenage daughter. Tensions quickly rise with the body count. But this is not a traditional screamer horror film. This is the second full feature film by Jim Cummings who made his mark with an impressive breakout at SXSW in 2018 with the dramedy “Thunder Road”. Somewhat surprisingly, Cummings follows up that success with this horror/comedy/drama combo which aspires to package a murder mystery with heavy hitting themes of masculine rage and familiar obligation. Think “Fargo” mixed with the Secret Lives of Dentists”. The sheriff, played by stalwart Robert Forster in his final big screen appearance before his death, represents a fading generation where strong leadership meant something. Cummings, who stars as the Sheriff’s son and deputy, deploys an unique and quirky comedic script routed in local custom and dialects to reveal not just the monster of the crime, but the monsters in men. Cummings uses the legends of Werewolf’s to deliver a searing indictment of how little has changed in masking our inner demons and abuse of women. Cummings as an actor similarly transforms from astute detective to town drunk. However, like the full moon, Riki Lindhome consistently outshines the rest of the cast as one of the other sheriff deputies, mixing deadpan humor with nuggets of stating the obvious wisdom. But the lack of additional backstory for her character and others is symptomatic of a film which wallows over slow landscape shots but skips over backstory after backstory of the supporting case. As the body count mounts, so does the collateral damage- physically and emotionally.
So, on my alternative “surf is not up" rating system, “Wolf of Snow Hollow” earns my intermediate boogie board rating. Piercing scenes which unmask the grasp of addiction and dualities of father-son/father-daughter bonds elevate a meandering narrative, poor editing which is both abrupt and prematurely transitional. However, Utah shines bright in this film as the cinematography is glorious and local audiences will delight in recognizing Summit County and Solitude venues.
“Wolf of Snow Hollow” is rated R for violence, bloody images, language, drug use and graphic dissection of a ball cap for a pony tail. And it was long overdue.
For KPCW’s Friday Film Review, my name is Mark Harrington and it’s been 329 days since my last drink in Hawaii and 512 days since my last drink in Ireland.