Monsters come in many forms, and in the sometimes comedic filmed-in-Utah horror thriller “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” those monsters are both external and internal.
In a small Utah ski town, a couple is enjoying a getaway in a rental cabin — until P.J. (Jimmy Tatro) leaves the hot tub to take a shower, and doesn’t hear his girlfriend, Brianne (Annie Hamilton), being brutally attacked and dismembered. The one clue left by the killer is a bloody paw print, like a wolf’s, in the snow.
In the Snow Hollow Sheriff’s Department, the lead deputy, John Marshall (Jim Cummings), must deal with the aftermath. He works to assure town officials that the killing is an isolated incident, while also keeping the local media away from the crime scene. He interviews potential suspects and must wrangle junior deputies who joke about a werewolf terrorizing the town. John also has personal issues, as a recovering alcoholic and a divorced dad to a sullen teen, Jenna (Chloe East).
John’s biggest concern, besides catching the killer, is keeping his aged father, the town’s gruff old sheriff (Robert Forster), from having a heart attack from the stress of it all.
Cummings, who is also the movie’s writer and director, does a solid job with the horror elements of the story, staging attacks on the women of Snow Hollow that are effectively gruesome. He also works well with his cast, notably comedian Riki Lindhome (“Knives Out”) as the most grounded (and, not coincidentally, the least testosterone-afflicted) deputy on the force — and particularly with Forster, in his final role before his death last October, who shares some tender father-son moments with Cummings.
As in his Sundance award-winning short “Thunder Road,” and the feature that grew from it, Cummings’ best weapon is himself. When we first see Cummings’ John, it’s in a single-take monologue in which John gives a rambling confessional talk at an AA meeting. The scene hints at an edgy performance to come, and sets up the narrative that plays out: John’s neuroses boiling to the surface as the pressure mounts to nab the killer, which John insists is human in spite of the growing evidence of something else.
There are moments in “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” where the tonal balance feels a bit off, as the gallows humor and the gore fight for dominance. But as an examination of a lawman coming unglued from stress, the movie is sharp and intense.
‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow’
A series of killings affects a Utah ski town and causes a sheriff’s deputy to unravel, in this tense and sometimes comedic horror thriller.
Where • Megaplex Theatres across Utah.
When • Opens Friday, Oct. 9.
Rated • R for violence, bloody images, language throughout and some drug use.
Running time • 84 minutes.