An Average Movie-Goer’s Review
Spoilers! If you don’t want spoilers – check out the Spoiler-Free post
I love horror movies and if I’m going to watch them anyway, why not write an entertaining/funny review from the POV of an average movie-goer and not a professional critic.
Today we’re looking at the 2020 horror/dark comedy The Wolf of Snow Hollow
Hysteria spreads in a small town in Utah after a woman is found murdered by, what appears to be, a werewolf attack leaving a small group of officers to race and stop the killer before it strikes again.
Is The Wolf of Snow Hollow Scary?
No, while some might find a few scenes tense, there are maybe just a handful of those. The Wolf of Snow Hollow doesn’t try to be scary, it focuses on the characters and uses the “monster” movie aspect to tell a story instead of scaring the audience. Overall you won’t leave The Wolf of Snow Hollow scared unless you’re pretty sure someone in your town is a werewolf and you have family drama going on.
The film opens with couple PJ and Brianne (played by Jimmy Tatro and Annie Hamilton) arriving at a rented-out cabin in a small snowy town.
That night the two are having dinner at a local diner and PJ gets into an argument with some locals after they use a homophobic slur. It’s implied PJ’s brother is gay and he apologizes to Brianne for causing a scene. Back at the cabin as Brianne looks for the hot tub heater we see that PJ is planning on proposing.
After some hot tub time, PJ heads inside for a shower as Brianne stays outside to turn off the tub. Brianne hears something growling and, inside, PJ starts to hear multiple dogs barking outside. Investigating the sounds he finds Brianne’s eviscerated naked body outside. Fade out on the cold open.
DUN DUNN In the criminal justice system sexually based offenses are considered– oh wait this isn’t Law and Order.
We cut to the following day where we meet our main character John (played by Jim Cummings) at an alcoholics anonymous group. Although I’m not sure how anonymous it is in the small town especially since it’s taking place at the police station basement and John is a cop. We quickly learn a lot about John while he gives his speech including that he has anger issues, has an ex-wife who he doesn’t get along with, has a daughter, and hasn’t drunk in 3 years.
As John is giving his speech, he realizes he can’t hear anyone upstairs which means something is going on. Cut to him arriving at the crime scene of Brianne’s death where we meet John’s father; Sheriff Hadley (played by Robert Forster), and Officer Julia Robson (played by Riki Lindhome).
The medical examiner tells the sheriff that whoever killed Brianne, cut out her private areas. It’s quickly apparent that the sheriff is not prepared for this kind of crime as they probably don’t get too many murders in the town.
We see how quickly random rumors start spreading as a neighbor frantically asks another officer, Officer Guttierez (played by Skyler Bible) if there really was a chemical spill. Meanwhile, the owner of the house PJ rented, is angry about the police investigation like there isn’t a dead body currently on the property.
A little while later a member of the press interviews the sheriff and John and we learn that hysteria is starting to grip the town. After the interview, we learn that the sheriff is about to retire and is having some heart issues.
Meanwhile, Julia (Officer Julia Robson but I’m not going to type that out every time) interviews the men that PJ got into an argument with at the diner. Although these guys are complete dicks, I’m pretty sure it’s a red herring and they aren’t the murderers.
At the diner, we meet the rest of the cops working under John as they try to piece together the events of the night Brianne was killed. From left to right, Officer Guttierrez, Officer Bo (played by Kevin Changaris), Officer Chavez (played by Demetrius Daniels), and Officer John Marshall.
Guttierrez suggests Brianne was killed by an animal since the only tracks leading away are canine but, John says that the precision cuts to remove her vagina means the killer had thumbs. Bo then points out there was a full moon the night before but it doesn’t appear that John is willing to entertain the thought that it was a werewolf attack.
The following day John meets with his ex-wife Brittany and his daughter Jenna (played by Chloe East) at the diner where Brittany quickly gets under his skin. Intercut with this scene, we see flashbacks of the day and night before where a snowboard instructor plans to meet with an ex-boyfriend, Josh, but is attacked by a freaking werewolf.
The snowboarder attempts to escape but the werewolf rips off her arm and we cut back to the present at the diner where John is informed of the murder.
At the crime scene, we learn that the killer took the victim’s head and John once again argues with Guttierez, telling him that it is not a werewolf. Bo then yells out that it was possibly a wolf in front of the press. John asks to speak with Bo privately and he attacks him leading to a fight. That scene is intercut with the funeral of the snowboarder where we see the stress is becoming too much for John.
That night John watches the news call the killings the “snow mountain horror” and he reluctantly grabs some beer cans from a cabinet. The next morning John coldly fires Bo and tells him to get a job at WikiLeaks. Solid burn. John then argues with Chavez and announces that the killer is definitely not a werewolf as they’re imaginary.
In a meeting with the team, Julia presents the medical examiner’s findings and we learn the snowboarder had canine-like bites all over her body but the killer, which was determined to be the size of a bear, left no saliva or DNA.
Later while Jenna is staying at John’s house, he becomes the typical overprotective dad by telling her to make sure she’s always carrying around the pepper spray he gifted her and alluding that the way she dresses puts her in danger. She dismisses his worries by citing facts about tobacco deaths in Utah, insinuating that she’s not at risk of being attacked which means she’s totally going to get attacked at some point.
We next see Julia and John driving towards the city to visit PJ and John expresses his anger that the FBI is unwilling to help. Someone then throws a beer bottle at the car but when they stop they don’t see anyone nearby.
We cut to a random scene of a guy doing some drugs in a trailer and we see a wolf pass by outside. John and Julia arrive at PJ’s and try to ask him about the night of the murder but he loses his temper at them for not solving the murder yet.
Julia tries to give him his and Brianne’s possessions that were left at the house but PJ breaks down crying as his mom takes the items. Before John leaves, PJ asks him not to arrest the killer but instead shoot him until he can see the ground through his face.
The next day a local woman, Liz (played by Kelsey Edwards) is at a diner with her daughter when she’s approached by a man we don’t see. He asks her some intrusive questions and makes it known that he knows what car Liz drives. Liz gets creeped out and calmly excuses herself so she can ask the waitress if she can call the police.
The man leaves before she can but Liz tells John and Julia she thinks he was definitely the killer. Liz describes the man as tall, a local, smelling like a dark room for photography, and possibly between the ages of 20 and 50… all tips can’t be winners.
We next see the police question multiple others including a woman who yells that she’s not a sex worker, a grocery store worker who insinuates his co-worker from the meat department might be the killer, the owner of the house PJ rented who yells that he’s innocent and wants to speak to his wife, a man who claims the killer is a big woman, and a guy who just wants to see his cats.
Afterward, John checks on his dad (Sheriff Hadley) who is getting a check-up from an EMT. The EMT informs John that Hadley has a heart murmur which leads to an argument between John and his dad. John urges him to work from home and retire but Hadley refuses and states he’s fine.
That night Liz is driving with her daughter and stops when she sees a dead deer in the middle of the road. Liz leaves her car to investigate but takes a gun with her. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help when the werewolf shows up and kills her and her daughter.
This scene is intercut with John yelling at the coroner who wasn’t able to get any evidence off of Liz’s body. The coroner yells at John for not having suspects which leads to a physical altercation. We also see scenes of John at Liz and her daughter’s funeral.
That night, a stressed-out John starts to drink again and gets completely drunk on Listerine so he’s pretty serious about not being sober. The next day we see the guy who was doing drugs in the trailer, burning a body. As the camera pans out we see he has a wolf tattoo on his arm. Meanwhile, John seems to accept that there might actually be a werewolf and heads to the library to research… isn’t the internet a thing?
Later John and Julia learn of a weird message someone left on Liz’s work phone and trace the call to a payphone in the middle of nowhere but there are no prints. With the stress and drinking making John more on edge, he continues to lash out at other cops. That night is another full moon and all the officers arm themselves in anticipation of another attack.
Hadley gives everyone a speech as everyone sets off on patrol but John notices Hadley grabbing his chest. After the rest of the officers leave, John sits his dad down and Hadley finally agrees to go to the hospital and retire. John gets the receptionist to call for an ambulance as he promises his dad he’s going to catch the killer.
Meanwhile, Jenna decides to hang out with her boyfriend, Brock, despite a town curfew in effect. The two meet up and start making out in his truck but are interrupted when Brock notices a neighbor trying to get their attention from her window.
Jenna realizes that the neighbor is trying to warn them just as the werewolf smashes into the truck. Brock runs out of the truck causing Jenna to fall backward onto the ground. The police get the call and all rush to the location with John arriving there first.
John arrives just in time to stop the attack and starts to chase after the werewolf with his shotgun but stops when he hears Jenna call for him. John is shocked Jenna is there and yells at her for breaking curfew.
Jenna realizes the fall from the truck caused her to bleed from the back of her head and grows irate that John doesn’t ask if she’s okay. She curses him out and tells him she can’t wait to go off to college in a few weeks so she doesn’t have to be around him. She then tells him to take her to the hospital as she gets into his car.
While she’s yelling we hear Officer Guttierrez on the radio say he’s in pursuit of the werewolf. John hears gunshots coming from the end of the block but chooses to take Jenna to the hospital instead. A few minutes later Julia and other officers find Officer Guttierrez dead and stuffed in a garbage can.
At the hospital, John gets Brock’s address from Jenna’s phone and breaks into his house to attack him. Brock’s mom pepper sprays him but when she realizes it’s John she starts questioning Brock what he did. So John has completely lost it and also apparently Brock’s mom is cool with cops breaking in and beating her son.
John returns to the hospital to find out his father has died. At the police precinct, John takes his dad’s gun, adds it to his belt loop, and gets drunk in the office. This scene is intercut with a scene of him being turned away from the alcoholic’s anonymous group and we see John punch himself in the face with anger. In the present, he pulls out his own tooth, fucking hardcore… and dumb.
That night Jenna returns home to find John drunk after having crashed his car. Jenna helps him to his room and John breaks down for not being able to catch the killer despite promising his dad. Meanwhile, we see the wolf tattoo guy at his trailer taking drugs and overdosing.
The next morning Julia tells John they caught the guy and he rushes out of the police station to see EMTs bringing in the dead wolf tattoo guy.
The coroner tells John and Julia they found out he had an exotic knife collection and was living only a half mile from the first murder. He then says the woman we saw him burning earlier is a woman named Helena Gaines and although the coroner says “remember her”, you’ll still be confused because this is literally the first we’re hearing of her.
The coroner adds they haven’t found his wolf suit which makes me think this isn’t actually the killer but the coroner believes it is and insults John for not catching him. John realizes the coroner is the one who threw the glass bottle at the cop car when he and Julia were heading to the city to drop off PJ’s possessions. The coroner denies it was him but he’s a bad liar and John fires him.
A short time later, with the case closed, Julia drops John off with a bunch of stuff he needs to give back to the victims and suspects. Before he leaves, Julia gives him a pep-talk, telling him to start acting like a sheriff. Intercut with the scenes of John dropping off the victim’s or suspect’s possessions, we see him attending alcoholic anonymous again.
Back at the precinct Julia puts away evidence and finds a roll of twine in Brianne’s possessions. Not thinking anything of it, she assumes it was hers and seals it in the box. Later she gets a call from PJ who tells her they gave him back a seam ripper that wasn’t his or Brianne’s. Julia realizes something and immediately hangs up.
Meanwhile, John is dropping off the final few possessions to Paul Carnury (played by Will Madden) who is the town’s taxidermist. Paul is also the owner of the house PJ and Brianne rented and appeared earlier when the police were investigating (back in paragraph 6). He also appeared when the police were questioning people and was the guy who asked to speak to his wife.
Paul invites John in for some coffee and asks him about the case since it’s now closed. He then offers to spike the coffee and John happily agrees. Seeing all the alcohol out on the counter, John makes a joke about Paul’s wife being away for the weekend and Paul says he’s not married.
If you scroll up a few lines I clearly mention that Paul is married and when Paul said this, I went back and checked. Paul wasn’t given a name earlier during the questioning scene but it’s clearly the same guy. This dude is the killer… also why don’t killers like using better lighting in their homes? It’s always a dreary yellow.
John doesn’t realize that Paul is lying but then Paul asks about Jenna. It takes a moment but something finally clicks in John’s head since no one knew Jenna was involved in the attack. John thanks Paul for the coffee and leaves. Outside John puts it together after thinking about it for a few minutes.
Returning back to Paul’s place he asks him to stand up straight and Paul is revealed to be around 7 feet tall. Realizing that John knows he’s the werewolf, Paul slams the door closed and runs. John calls for backup on his radio but no one responds so he breaks into Paul’s house through the window.
Searching through the home, John finds the snowboarder’s head and is surprised by Paul who stabs him in the stomach. Paul hears the police arriving and runs off through a back door. John falls to the ground, grabs his gun, and gives chase but is knocked down by Paul now in a werewolf costume.
Paul runs into the woods behind his house and John gives chase. Paul attacks John and easily beats him to the ground but is momentarily distracted by fireworks going off nearby. Julia arrives and shoots Paul dropping him to the ground.
John gets up and shoots Paul in the head multiple times. John then collapses from his injuries as Julia runs toward him.
Several weeks later, Julia is helping Jenna drop stuff off at her new dorm and we see that Julia is now the sheriff. After she leaves, John enters and tells Jenna she loves him and she reciprocates. Before he leaves he tells her he left her some protection in her top drawer which Jenna calls disgusting.
After he leaves Jenna checks the top drawer and finds condoms but spots something else leaving her surprised. We cut to John leaving the building and fixing his belt, which tells us he left Jenna his dad’s gun. Walking away he overhears several college guys talking about the new “fresh meat” that just arrived in the dorms. John stops momentarily but continues walking, showing us that he is trying to be less overprotective.
The film then ends with a tribute to Robert Forster.
The Wolf of Snow Hollow is good, almost great. It has some great acting, great dialogue, and has an engaging story. The characters were all well-rounded and each felt like real people. Often in comedies, the character’s actions are heightened for comedic effect but that doesn’t happen here. That does mean that this isn’t the funniest horror/comedy you’ll ever see but it’ll get you to chuckle a few times.
It does help that John has an anger problem which is already a heightened emotion but it doesn’t go too far. But it was a great idea to use that descent into anger and losing control as a comparison to a monstrous killer.
Although the story is great and well told, it doesn’t nudge one of my pet peeves when it comes to mystery stories. When I watch a mystery, I would like to know that I could have solved it when it’s all said and done. It’s fun to know the clues were all there and that doesn’t happen here. The movie does kind of get away with it because it feels like all the clues were there.
Paul is seen at the start of the movie and again later on but we are never told he was a taxidermist or that he doesn’t have a wife. Julia is able to figure out he is the killer because she knows of things that the audience doesn’t and never had a chance of knowing. On the flip side, the movie does give you all the clues that the werewolf isn’t real when very early on we’re told that no DNA is left but there are bite marks.
Again that’s all just a pet peeve and might not bother anyone else. Other than there are some questions that you’re left with but nothing that ruins the story, for example, why did Paul start his murder spree all of a sudden? We get no answers on that but dedicating sufficient time to that would have hurt the mysteries.
Overall I highly recommend giving The Wolf of Snow Hollow a watch, it’s a great character study-like movie that is behind a monster movie making it very enjoyable and a mystery making it highly engaging.