Deputy sheriff John Marshall has a problem. Well, several problems. He’s a recovering alcoholic, the spiteful separation with his ex-wife is causing rift between him and his teenage daughter Jenna (Chloe East), and his father – Sheriff Hadley – has a heart condition, which is constantly on John’s mind; but the biggest problem is that there’s a killer loose in Snow Hollow and everyone but him is convinced it’s a werewolf.
The death toll rises as the towns fear escalates and the idea of a werewolf takes a far firmer hold than he’d ever anticipated.
This sophomore effort from writer/director/star Jim Cummings after his utterly brilliant ‘Thunder Road’ debut, is ostensibly a werewolf movie, but is actually about so much more.
Beginning with a savage murder, this tells the story of small-town America, a country police-force out of its depth and a man struggling with his own identity in the face of mounting pressure from all sides.
The town of Snow Hollow is almost a complete character here, and that sense of place and people is an important aspect of the story. A familiarity with the people who’ve seen him both at his best and his worst makes his every move as a fledging sheriff-in-situ that much more open to scrutiny, and adds another layer to the already heavy load he is burdened with.
Though clearly unsuited to a job that requires patience and a more careful mindset, his partner Detective Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome) balances out his flaws and is obviously the better choice for the senior role. You get the feeling however that this hadn’t even occurred to John, that as the son of the outgoing sheriff, the job is all but his. John is so consumed by his own problems that he fails to really engage and see the world around him, and his evolution as a character and the widening of his perspective is one of this films strengths.
For Sheriff Hadley, dealing with his own mortality is a thing he wants to put off for as long as possible; and the chance to focus on these brutal killings affords him the distraction he most desperately desires, that it may come at his own detriment is not a consideration until it has to be.
By turns a police procedural, a drama about family and commitment, and a bloody good horror, this manages to service all its favoured genres with aplomb.
The acting, particularly from the always reliable Cummings, Lindhome, and the late Robert Forester giving another great performance here in his twilight years, are all effortlessly believable. The cinematography is beautiful and the screenplay is clever. I also particularly enjoyed the way that this was directed, not unnecessarily showy, but definitely distinctive and textural; one vignette concerning a ski instructor was superbly cinematic and another scene in a diner was chilling in both what it showed and what it chose not to show.
This is a film to be enjoyed more than once, rich as it is in context and world building, pointed dialogue and fabulous performances, it’s also consistently funny.
Perfect for a chilly night