Rated R for lots of blood, lots of violence towards women, lots and lots of swearing, and lots of drinking. While I wouldn't consider The Wolf of Snow Hollow a movie that is going for extremes or offensiveness, it does not shy away from the fact that it is a horror movie and it embraces the R rating readily.
DIRECTOR: Jim Cummings
Oh man, there's something here. There's so something here and it just doesn't. I know. I'm intentionally writing cryptically to give the words a certain bite (pun intended). But it's how I feel. Just a little more crafting and a little more distance, this might have been one of those movies I would have been talking about for years. Instead, I'm always going to slightly relegate it to the pile of movie's whose marketing campaign did a better job than the movie itself.
I mean, did you see that poster? It's a perfect poster and I really hoped that the movie was going to match the vibe of that poster. (Spoiler Alert: It does not.) It sounds like I really hate the movie. I didn't. Oh no. In fact, I liked a lot of it, especially the end. But the movies that frustrate me the most are the ones that I know I can fix. Anything I know that I can fix, as a layman, bugs me. It's because someone should have gotten to that before it got to my eyes. There had to be moments where someone said, "No, this is not working" and come up with the solution I did just sitting on my couch. Can I tell you what's wrong with it? It wanted to do two opposing ideas well and it completely muddies it.
Now, I don't know who Jim Cummings is. I read his IMDb page. I saw his name all over this movie. I think the movie really wanted me to know that Jim Cummings wrote, directed, and starred in this movie. It treated him like he was Bruce Campbell or something. The second I made that connection, I realized the problem with this movie. This movie used the horror genre and a series of tropes to explore what it means to lose control and to break down. That's a story. I love it. But horror isn't just one thing. And I think that there was this pressure (probably by Cummings himself) to make a movie that looked and felt like a horror movie that he liked. It shouldn't have been that. And because it shouldn't have been that, I'm going to say something that I've said a thousand times about art: it needs to be vulnerable. I'll tell you what and I'll tell you that thing for free. This movie absolutely needed so much vulnerability considering that content of the film itself.
Part of it comes from the way it was shot. There's a really nifty image I have in my brain. I come up with this idea. There's a werewolf killing the members of a small town. While that's cool set anywhere in the world, setting it in a town defined by snow is a great visual. I mean, look at that poster that I love. You'll see what I'm getting at. But blood on snow is striking and I'm sure that Cummings has that same image in his head. However, he wanted it to be white snow. It shouldn't have been tarnished by darkness. The imagery of blood on snow needed to be as stark as he could have gotten it. But to do that, he needed to film the movie with this bright color palate which does something to the tone of the movie. Instead of being bleak and dark, there's this overly light tone to the movie. This is a movie that is about a small time sheriff at the end of his rope, coping with alcoholism and disrespect. All of this is the byproduct of mortality. His father, a roadmap for the main character, dies of a heart murmur. Pile on a series of murders that everyone expects for him to solve coupled with a fantasy angle that seems to be a werewolf and he's placed under this unmanagable stress.
Then why go comedy? Because he shot the film like a sitcom. There are no shadows. Everything is five-point lighting and lit to the nines. If the red is going to be bright, so is everything else. I think the tone shifted from that moment. If everything was going to look like a sitcom, mind as well make elements of the story like a sitcom. I'm not saying dark movies should be humor free. But at one point in the story, Jim Cummings made the choice to drive the story on the jokes and it does not work. I know, Snyderverse fans, that was your complaint about Thor: Love and Thunder. The difference is that you are wrong and your fandom is the worst. If this is a writing class, the first note I have to say is to "kill your darlings." Cummings is obsessed with images in his mind and these images are in direct conflict with the storytelling elements. If anything, this movie needed to learn something from The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot. That movie had something that could have been quirky as heck, but it maintained a tone all of the way through.
The insane thing is, I really love what is the framework for this movie. That end is satisfying as get out. The movie tells us everything we need to know about the killer. He swears up and down that there are no such things as werewolves and we're so used to horror film tropes that we thought that this was a story about letting go. After all, metaphorically, this is a guy who holds onto unjustified rage the entire film. The idea of letting go of his preconceptions and then also his narrow-mindedness about werewolves seems like an apt metaphor. So when the guy is right the entire time, you realize that this movie has been this grounded film the entire time. It's about a man who loses his mind not just because of rage issues, but because misinformation has caused him to question his sanity and humanity around him. And that's why the comedy doesn't work. Because this is a movie about so much and yet, it doesn't let us feel what he feels. Even when he spirals out of control, it comes off a bit silly. Nothing about it feels earned. Most of the movie, Jim Cummings yells for the sake of joking and that makes the yelling that he needs to do neutered.
But that shot, man. The shot that probably started this whole project going. "Could you stand to full height, sir?" or something like that? It's so good. It is such a solid moment that I makes me mad that the rest of the movie isn't better. Again, elements of absolute genius. But the majority of the film doesn't support this moment. Again, I'l always get upset about a lost opportunity and this is a lost opportunity. I don't want to put this one someone's shoulders, but there's a good movie here that needs to be fixed. Right now, it's a goofball forgettable movie. I want something of substance.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.