January brings with it the Wolf Moon, so it’s appropriate that this month’s Full Moon Feature is The Wolf of Snow Hollow, which is set in a Utah ski resort town experiencing a sudden upswing in what appear to be werewolf attacks. (The subject gets danced around at first, but once the w-word is invoked 28 minutes in, it’s never far from anyone’s lips.) As if that wasn’t bad enough, Snow Hollow’s sheriff (played by Robert Forster in his final screen role) is in his “last quarter” due to a heart murmur, which the department is trying to keep the public in the dark about, and his son is feeling the stress of being his heir apparent, which is bad news for the hard-won sobriety he’s all but guaranteed to lose before all is said and done.
Following the standard introduction of a couple of vacationing city slickers renting a cabin in the woods only for one of them to be horrifically mutilated by something off-screen that leaves a giant paw print behind in the fresh snow, writer/director Jim Cummings goes about introducing his protagonist, John Marshall (who happens to be played by Cummings), leading an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. “If you can just focus and not let the monsters inside of you come out, if you can just concentrate on the 12 Steps,” he says shortly before losing his concentration and trailing off, a signal that he’s a man with a lot on his plate. In addition to keeping his father’s failing health under wraps, John is also taking charge of his college-bound daughter and worrying about the onset of ski season, the sole reason for Snow Hollow’s existence. (The Wolf of Snow Hollow takes place around Christmas, but this amounts to little more than window dressing.) As the unsolved murders pile up, though, and John becomes an unwelcome presence at successive funeral services, his grip on the situation and his sanity rapidly unravels.
All in all, this is not a bad set-up for a werewolf story, and Forster lends gravity to the role of the ailing sheriff, giving Cummings someone solid to play off of. The problem is most of the time Cummings’s performance is overwrought, his character’s hair-trigger temper causing him to mistake shouting at the top of his lungs and throwing things at people for shows of strength. Cummings also intercuts his werewolf attacks with the subsequent investigations, which catch John at his most frazzled and disorganized. Next to him, Riki Lindhome’s patient detective looks like Snow Hollow’s most capable and dependable law enforcement officer by default.
I’m probably making The Wolf of Snow Hollow sound worse than it is, but I’d be more inclined to give it a break if Cummings had a better handle on the mystery aspect. Since he tips his hand early on by showing the second attack being carried out by a hulking wolf creature, the only question that remains is who the monster is when there isn’t a full moon out, and one obvious red herring aside, the viewer isn’t presented with any likely (or even unlikely) suspects. And when John does show up on the killer’s doorstep, the realization that Cummings has lifted his climax straight out of The Silence of the Lambs doesn’t make it go down any easier.