In retrospect, I probably should have saved The Wolf of Snow Hollow for this month’s Snow Moon, but there’s enough snow in the Colorado-set Lone Wolf to pick up the slack. Released at the end of a decade that delivered a bumper crop of iconic werewolf movies, it’s a film made with a great deal of enthusiasm, if not a lot of skill, with most of the supporting players delivering broad, community theater-level performances and the leads running the gamut from robotic to wildly overacting.
The premise is that the town of Fairview has been beset by a rash of gruesome killings that the police have blamed on a pack of wild dogs, but the viewer knows it’s a werewolf from the start. Right after the cheap-looking opening titles, there’s a scene of a couple making out in a car on a wintry night that ends with the guy (who’s drunk, so he has it coming to him) going off in a huff and being slaughtered by a monster that gets an extreme close-up so there’s no doubt whatsoever about its existence. The girl who left him out in the cold, by the way, is Julie (first-billed Dyann Brown), who doesn’t find out the fate of her would-be paramour until the Neighborhood Watch meeting that’s crashed by his distraught father. “How could a pack of wild dogs do this?” he wails, and top cop Sgt. Patrickson (James Ault) doesn’t have a good answer because there have been two other, equally baffling killings in the interim and he’s done little more than berate detective Cominski (Michael Parker) over his inability to get to the bottom of things.
One of the characters screenwriter Michael Krueger presents as a potential suspect is recent Chicago transplant Eddie (Jamie Newcomb), the lead singer of an unnamed bar band that performs hard-rocking songs with generic titles like “Let It Rock,” “Rock You All Night,” and “Raised on Rock ‘n’ Roll,” but the most germane one is “Misunderstood” because Eddie sure is. Since his parents were mysteriously killed, he’s moved in with his Aunt Trudy and Uncle Jack, who browbeat him for staying out late, violating his parole, and not going to school where he’s taking a course in computer programming along with every other major character. These include put-upon nerd Joel (Kevin Hart — no, not that one), stuck-up mean girl Deirdre (Ann Douglas), and her eye-rolling sidekick Colleen (Siren), plus the sundry ski-jacketed preppies who periodically have their throats torn out.
As suddenly as the attacks start, though, they cease for an entire month, after which Joel uses his ace computer-modeling skills (“We’re not talking another WarGames here, are we?” Julie asks when he proposes hacking into the police department’s computer) to figure out that they all coincide with the full moon. This can lead to the only one conclusion and it’s one he takes seriously enough to melt down his father’s silver sports trophies to make silver bullets off-screen. (“Hey, look,” he quips. “This isn’t Michael J. Fox we’re dealing with here.”) Meanwhile, Eddie is less than heartbroken when Uncle Jack has his heart ripped out, one of many gruesome practical effects the film is littered with. By the time director John Callas gets around to his big transformation scene, though (after limiting sightings of the werewolf to half-second inserts during its attacks), all this does is reveal just how rubbery it is. Conversely, the most effective scenes are the ones where we only see the creature’s shadow as it creeps up walls and looms in the background. Definitely a case where less would have been more.