The setting is always the same, the small secluded alpine town with the blistering snow storm. The cast of characters from the old time sheriff to the collection of scared townsfolk. The winter horror isn’t anything new but in writer/director Jim Cummings hands it feels entirely fresh, funny and most of all, smart. The Wolf of Snow Hollow follows deputy John Marshall (Cummings), a recovering alcoholic whose father, Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster, in his final screen role) is approaching retirement because of health issues. When a series of grisly murders turns the small town into a hive of gossip and fear and his teenage daughter comes to stay, the pressure and stress push him down a rabbit hole of monstrous behaviour, forced to battle his demons along with an actual monster at the same time. Much like his previous film, Thunder Road, Cummings here zeroes in on a classic downward spiral but comfortably slots it into a familiar story with ease. Turning a quintessential horror into something painfully funny at the same time.
Proving adept as a multi-hyphenate, Cummings works best here at bringing out the physical and visual comedy, not only through his writing but in methodical and simple direction. Much like with most classic horrors, the mystery of what is terrorising Snow Hollow, the unseen threat that sneaks up on you carries over into John’s own struggles, as he takes on the weight of the small towns issues like the lone ranger, his Gunsmoke riffing name mocks him for being. Cummings adeptly takes a used formula and injects a deplorably self involved character into it and hey presto, instead of a film about community tearing itself apart because of paranoia and fear it does the opposite. Cummings seems to be saying that John and by extension himself, isn’t as important as he thinks and its this self referential silliness that makes his film so special and one of the main reasons it might be this years best comedy.