Before I became the host of The Screen Scene, I was the content programmer for the Way Down Film Festival based out of Columbus, Georgia. I watched hundreds of short films each year to assemble a slate for the festival screenings.
So, it’s no surprise that I first encountered writer-director-actor Jim Cummings through his 2016 short film Thunder Road. The story is told in a single 13-minute take as a police officer eulogizes his mother and invokes the lyrics and music of the classic Springsteen song to complete the task.
The Boss himself was so impressed by the short that he gave Cummings the rights to his song for free. The short was so successful on the festival circuit and received such critical praise that Cummings raised the funds to expand Thunder Road into a feature film in 2018.
When I heard that Jim Cummings’ new film, The Wolf of Snow Hollow, was the closing night selection for the online Celebration of Fantastic Fest out of Austin, Texas, I knew I had to see the latest work from the 34-year-old filmmaker. My loyalty to Cummings’ cinematic brand was rewarded. The Wolf of Snow Hollow is one of the most intelligent and enjoyable horror films of the year.
In the opening scenes of the film, a young man and woman are vacationing in Snow Hollow, Utah. They eat at a restaurant where the man gets into a verbal altercation with the locals. Later that night, the young woman is brutally murdered outside their cabin. The forensic team thinks its an animal attack. The police wonder if the men from the restaurant came back to settle their score.
From that brief plot synopsis, you think you know where this film is headed. It’s a horror film. The murder may have been committed by a man or maybe by an animal? Hmmm. What about a werewolf? One of the many pleasures of The Wolf of Snow Hollow is its unpredictability. It doesn’t go to some of the places you expect, and that’s one of its strengths. The film avoids the typical horror plot beats and really sticks its landing.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow features the final performance of actor Robert Forster as the aging sheriff who doesn’t want to hand the reigns of the town over to his son played by Jim Cummings. Forster was a popular character actor and occasional leading man in the late 1960’s and the 1970’s. His big screen career faded in the 1980’s, and he began to appear as a guest actor on television shows.
In 1997, Quentin Tarantino cast Forster in Jackie Brown. It heralded a big screen resurgence for the actor and earned him an Oscar nomination. His part in The Wolf of Snow Hollow isn’t big, but it’s vitally important, and it’s great to see the veteran actor one last time.
The true MVP of The Wolf of Snow Hollow is Jim Cummings’ sharp, funny and suspenseful screenplay. The entire cast of characters is so believable that you truly care about what happens to them. It’s a horror film with real stakes.
Cummings understands that life is not comprised of just one tone or one feeling. Wolf veers from bloody violence to laugh-out-loud dark humor to moments of genuine emotion and feels completely grounded doing so.
The film is a lean 90 minutes. The suspense and the excellent performances from the entire ensemble cast combine to make the film move at a steady clip. In any other year, The Wolf of Snow Hollow would be a festival darling, gathering awards as it moves from genre festival to genre festival. Thanks to COVID, you can see the film from the comfort of your own home.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow hits digital rental platforms on October 9th. If you’d like to see the film that put Jim Cummings on the filmmaking map, Thunder Road the short film is currently available at filmshortage.com. Thunder Road the feature is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.