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Film / The Wolf of Snow Hollow

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"Let me just make this perfectly clear: there is no such thing as werewolves. Our killer is a guy, and I'm gonna find him, and I'm gonna kill... and we're gonna bring him to justice."
Officer John Marshall

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a dark comedy-horror film written and directed by Jim Cummings.

Officer John Marshall (Cummings) is a recovering alcoholic cop and single father of one in the small ski town of Snow Hollow, Utah, working under his ailing father, Sheriff Hadley (Robert Forster). As a series of murders begins to sweep the community, John begins slipping in his duties as both a family caretaker and an effective investigator. The most disturbing fact, however, is that the victims these attacks appear to have injuries inflicted by some kind of beast.

Cummings' feature followup to Thunder Road, Snow Hollow offers similar themes on parenting and substance abuse and once again features Cummings in a police uniform. The film is also notable for supplying Robert Forster's final acting credit, as Forster tragically passed before the film's release.

This work provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: John is introduced in an AA meeting. He keeps two beers in a cabinet above his microwave and thinks about them in times of stress.
  • Alone with the Psycho:
    • One victim is sitting at a diner when a very tall man sits next to her and starts making increasingly creepy conversation with her, implying that he's the killer. She eventually picks up on it and makes an excuse to flee.
    • Immediately after we discover that a taxidermy tool was found at the crime scene, John shows up at the local taxidermist's house on routine business and sits down for coffee with the true killer.
  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not made clear whether John is still a sheriff's deputy in the end. He's out of uniform and wears a college hat instead of a sheriff's department hat. It's also unclear whether he suffered any ramifications for executing the killer.
  • Aside Glance: A motif throughout the film is people looking directly into the camera, most prominently victims of the killer shortly before they're attacked.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: John and other townsfolk express the desire to simply kill the murderer when the police find him. When John does spot the killer, he simply unloads with his shotgun as it flees. No one seems to question his actions.
  • Auto Erotica: Jenna and her boyfriend are having an intimate encounter in a parked car (complete with foggy windows) when the wolf tries to kill her.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: John and Jenna, his daughter, have a severe argument that turns into unloading their mutual resentment after she crosses the path with the killer, and she harbours clear resentment for him being an always absent and indifferent father. But when John goes Off the Wagon with his alcoholism, she takes care of him - and it's implied it's not the first time. John, on his side, when not under massive pressure, is far more empathic and supportive of his daughter.
  • Bad Boss: Zig-Zagged. John repeatedly screams at his fellow officers, attacks Hugh and later fires him for spilling investigation info within earshot of the press, and fires the coroner due to a personal dispute. However, his underlings are not just incompetent, but actively trying to ignore the investigation and shove it on other agencies, while making the ongoing case even harder than it already is to solve.
  • Beneath Suspicion: The killer, quite literally, avoids suspicion by hiding his true height and appearing small... until John asks him to stand up to full (and considerable) height.
  • Black Comedy: The film is as much a gruesome horror film as it is a comedy, in addition to being a character drama. Scenes will frequently intercut between a horrible murder and the incompetent police investigation in its aftermath.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: After Jenna narrowly avoids being attacked by the killer and John comes to her rescue, he unloads on her for being Too Dumb to Live, breaking an obvious curfew with a known killer prowling around to have random sex in a truck with some guy. Jenna strikes back by pointing out that the only reason her father cares is how all of this will reflect on him as both an alimony payer and a deputy, being indifferent to Jenna's bleeding from the skull and never being there in her life to maybe even once show her any affection or interest.
  • The Chew Toy: John gets repeatedly injured throughout the film, which is played for laughs until he's stabbed in the gut by the killer.
  • Bluffing the Murderer: When the coroner mocks John for not solving the case, John accuses him of throwing the beer bottle at their squad car. The coroner flinches, pauses and then tries to claim he didn't do it. That's all the proof John needs.
  • Censored Child Death: In one scene, it is shown the killer is killing a mother, but we never see him killing the baby. The only hint to the baby's death is a baby sized coffin shown at a funeral.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The film starts as a comedy spoof of werewolf horrors, then goes into regular Black Comedy, then there are less and less jokes, and ultimately it's a pretty sombre drama with a whole lot of personal issues and an unhinged killer still on the loose.
  • Decoy Protagonist: The movie begins by following PJ and his soon-to-be fiance, and they receive several scenes of character development, implying that at least one of them will be the protagonist. The fiance gets killed, and PJ leaves town. We're then introduced to our actual protagonist, John.
  • Developing Doomed Characters: Each victim of the killer gets at least one full scene prior to being murdered to establish her character.
  • Disposing of a Body: The creepy loner burns a naked corpse in his yard to dispose of it.
  • The Dissenter Is Always Right: After John goes Off the Wagon, the murderer is inexplicitly found dead with a lot of incriminating evidence. People start to mock John, and he, with his enormous ego, just can't accept the fact that he didn't catch a guy this obvious and close, which everyone interprets as John being an even bigger loser and resents him even more. The case is closed, the families of the victims are given their personal possessions back... and this is when John figures out on his own who the real killer is. By the end it becomes clear he was right all the time and everyone got too distracted by their desire to get a closure on the serial killings, rather than really finding the killer.
  • Doing In the Wizard: The werewolf is revealed to just be a tall guy in a fur costume.
  • Dramatic Irony:
    • The first time we finally get a glimpse at the killer, it's an animalistic humanoid that just tore off the arm of his victim. Cue to John dismissing any indication that it's an animal attack, especially a wolf, and not wanting to hear about a werewolf. Because werewolves aren't real and they are dealing with a psycho in a suit.
    • We know that the taxidermist is almost certainly the killer, but John sits down and has coffee with the man, blissfully unaware.
  • Expy: John Marshall is virtually the same character as Cummings' previous role Jim Arnaud in Thunder Road. They're both unstable and incompetent law enforcement officers who are prone to crying and losing their temper, have an ex-wife and an estranged daughter, drink to excess, and cope with the loss of a parent. In the end, they both reconcile with their daughter and leave the force (if John does indeed do so as it is implied).
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: They mention that a tool was found at the crime scene, and a minute later, Jim gets Alone with the Psycho with the actual killer.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • John borrows a book on taxidermy and flips to a page showing a particular type of tool. It comes back later in the film.
    • When we see the killer speaking to a future victim in a diner, it's easy to spot that he's quite tall and thin, unlike the Red Herring thug who is stocky. He ultimately proves to be Paul Carnury, the tall and thin taxidermist.
    • The rental cabin, site of the first murder, has taxidermy animals in it.
  • Immune to Bullets: Subverted. The killer gets shot at multiple times to no effect, providing weight to the idea that it's a werewolf, but the shots apparently all simply miss. At the end of the film, the killer is killed by gunfire.
  • It's All About Me: Immediately after rescuing his daughter from the killer, John starts berating her for how her actions will reflect upon him with her mother rather than check on the state of her injuries.
  • It's Personal: John is heavily invested in the case from the start, but goes over the top once his daughter gets involved. This makes him fail the investigation, as he's too distracted, and as an indirect result, deputy Gutierrez gets killed, easily overwhelmed in a one-on-one with the killer.
  • Ironic Name: John Marshall, who works as a deputy sheriff. So does his father Hadley, being the town's sheriff for most of his life.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: John isn't always tactful when he says that his father's health is too bad for him to keep working (especially on such a stressful investigation), but he isn't wrong.
  • Last-Second Word Swap: When his police officer subordinates keep talking about the killer as a werewolf, John snaps, "Our killer is a guy! I'm gonna find him, and I'm gonna ki- ... and we're gonna bring him to justice."
  • Mama Bear: When John breaks into Brock's house to deliver some Papa Wolf justice, Brock's mother attacks him, stomps on his face and maces him.
  • Manchild: John is prone to throwing fits whenever he's under stress. When insisting that the killer is a man in spite of forensics saying it's an animal, he rants, "Why can't I be right about anything?!?"
  • Motif: Violence against women. The killer targets women. One of the victims has an abusive ex-boyfriend whom she's returning to. The Red Herring killer has murdered a woman for a completely unrelated reason. John notes that violence against women was often blamed on werewolves. He wonders blithely if women have had to cope with misogyny since ancient times. Julia just looks at him like that should have been obvious.
  • Nepotism: It's obviously not a coincidence that John is second in command at the sheriff's department when his father is the sheriff. He's obviously much less qualified than Julia.
  • Off the Wagon: It turns out that John keeps two beers above his microwave. In a moment of weakness, he downs them both and then starts chugging mouthwash for the alcohol content. In real life, alcoholics avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes for this very reason. He completely relapses and gets kicked out of an AA meeting for being drunk. This is apparently not the first time, since he admits in his first scene that he has spent three of the past six years sober.
  • Only Sane Man: Woman, rather, as Julia is the only person on the force to take the investigation seriously while keeping a good head on her shoulders, the latter of which certainly can't be said for John.
  • Our Werewolves Are Different: Various characters discuss whether the attacks come from a werewolf, and the media quickly turns to calling the murderer the Wolf of Snow Hollow in spite of John's repeated insistence that the killer is "a guy." John finally relents and starts studying werewolves in the library. It's ultimately revealed to just be a guy.
  • Papa Wolf: Deconstructed. John wants to protect his daughter, but he's pretty terrible at it. He gave her mace as a gift, which she notes is a terrible present. He does manage to scare away the killer and save her life, but immediately starts berating her, shows no concern for her injury and only thinks about how the situation will reflect on him. In the end, he gives her some additional items for "protection." Upon leaving, he hears some college guys talking about the gymnastics girls as "fresh meat." He stops, but controls himself and decides to trust his daughter to look after herself.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: When John invades Brock's house to give him a Papa Wolf beatdown, he disguises himself with a makeshift bib over his face, which immediately comes right off when Brock's mother attacks him.
  • Platonic Life-Partners: Julia and John are work partners and while it is clear they are close, they are so as best friends, rather than anything romantic.
  • Police Are Useless: Everyone in-universe sees the police as both useless and incompetent, while every single cop and county employee who isn't Julia and John is seen as neglectful and lazy. During the investigation, John has to threaten fellow deputies with firing them just to force them into doing their basic duties and investigating a blatantly obvious serial killer case.
  • Prepositions Are Not to End Sentences With: One of the murder victims has an angry voicemail on her work phone from a man. He conspicuously words his final sentence in a non-conversational manner so that it doesn't end in a preposition. John also notes his usage of "whom."
  • Rabid Cop: With each new issue with the investigation, John becomes more and more unhinged, not helped by his general anger management issues. Notably, he starts the story pretty self-restrained and controlling himself, but it doesn't last for long.
  • Red Herring: The film keeps cutting back to a large, unsavory man who disposes of a corpse and takes drugs, implying that he is the human form of the werewolf that we see murdering people. He's actually just an unrelated psychopath.
  • Riddle for the Ages: We don't find out what John left for his daughter in her dresser drawer for "protection" apart from the condoms. It's implied to be his gun, given that he's adjusting his belt when he exits the building.
  • Running Gagged: Jim getting injured is played comically until he gets stabbed by the killer.
  • Spot the Thread: Something doesn't sit right with John after reflecting on his conversation with Paul. Paul said he isn't married in spite of mentioning a wife in all of his previous scenes. John then realizes that Paul has always been sitting or hunching over whenever he's spoken to him, which conceals his great height.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: The killer is the local taxidermist, who used animal pelts to create a wolf costume that he kills in.
  • Vigilante Execution: Early in the film, John starts to proclaim that he's going to find and kill the suspect before catching himself and instead saying he'll merely bring him to justice. Later, PJ asks John to murder the killer rather than bring him in. John takes it to heart. In the end, after Julia has already incapacitated the killer, John empties his revolver into the man's head, executing him.
    PJ: Don't arrest him. Shoot him. Shoot him till you can see the ground through his face.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: After nearly becoming a victim of the killer and being pretty much blamed for this, Jenna chews John that he never was there for her, not even giving her the most vague platitudes of doing great, and how much she hates him for his indifference towards her life and how self-centred he is.
  • Wham Shot: After PJ reveals that the killer left behind a taxidermy tool at the crime scene, we cut to John standing outside of a house. The camera pulls back to reveal a sign reading, "Paul Carnury - Taxidermy."
  • Would Hurt a Child: The killer does not only ends a mother's life, but also her baby that was supposed to be safe in the car.