“When do I get to be right about something?” pleads John (Jim Cummings), a local policeman in “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” insisting that the perp behind a horrific killing is most definitely a man, despite the way the corpse at the crime scene has been ripped apart, suggesting an animal. John isn’t right about much, nor does he have to be, the son of a well-respected sheriff (the late Robert Forster in a wonderfully ornery final performance) who seems poised for the top job in town once his pops retires despite being the least impressive member of the force. However, his specious detective work becomes a cause for concern when homicides start piling up in a place where one at most can be expected every few years and family members of the deceased wonder how the murderer can’t be found in such a small town, leading to all sorts of wild speculation including the notion it might even be a werewolf.
For fans of Cummings’ debut “Thunder Road,” there’s almost instant delight in discovering that his second feature is in many ways a stealth sequel, with the writer/actor/director once again playing a painfully incompetent and trigger happy cop with a tendency to overshare and a remarkable ability to make himself angry, aggrieved with an ex-wife (Rachel Jane Day) who just wished he would show up for their daughter (Chloe East) who’s about to head off for college and colleagues who show him up at work, whether it’s a rival cop Chavez (Demetrius Daniels) or his partner Julia (Riki Lindhome). He isn’t shy about referring to himself as a monster in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and as it turns out, it takes one to know one as John may be setting back progress on the case time and again by following bad leads, but “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” draws a fascinating parallel between an unseen predator with no respect for human life and an average Joe who constantly gives in to his worst instincts.
Dropping the dim-witted deputy into the middle of serious investigation of a serial killer, especially one that may or may not be human, is ripe for comedy, but the punchlines only work as well as they do when Cummings completely sells the horror aspects as a director, drawing on Natalie Kingston’s moody cinematography and Ben Lovett’s elegantly undulating score that sets a tone that all of the characters in the film’s slightly idiosyncratic universe feel right at home in. Cummings has perfected the manchild he plays to a tee, twitchily blurting out personal anxieties he’d be better off not saying out loud as John and just endearing enough to never write off completely, but he brings out the best in his fellow actors, who all could fall into certain types, but bring a sense of surprise to their performances, even in the smallest of roles. It’s that consideration of character that ultimately makes “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” so rewarding besides being massively entertaining as clues that don’t amount of much when looking a killer reveal John to be his own worst enemy, tapping into the greatest fear of all while getting some major laughs.