It’s like if Paul Thomas Anderson made a horror movie.
Around this time four years ago, I sang the praises of Don’t Breathe. A sleeper thriller hit, the kind of genre success I only catch on Home Video at the end of the year after everyone sings its praises. The Wolf of Snow Hollow lives up to that hype. I won’t declare it immediately some genre classic, that’s for a larger fan reception and to some extent the masses to decide. It’s hard to tell how these films will shake out because its hard to tell how one will react on the second viewing, but despite its heavy subject matter the film is an easy watch.
Being a writer/ director/ star is hard to pull off. Good directors often make bad stars (Quentin Tarantino & M. Night Shyamalan). Good stars often make bad directors (George Clooney, Andy Serkis). And if so, few screenplays (often co-screenplays disguised as a heavy rewrite) don’t get in their way. Jim Cummings is a young director who can do all three.
What’s interesting about the movie is that it is funny, tense, AND dramatic. There’s never that comic swell, but the funny parts are funny, the serious parts dramatic, and the film pulls all the strings when it needs to. If there are any caveats its that the film doesn’t contain too many surprises. It’s straightforward and unstuffy. It manages to accomplish a lot in 83 minutes. A lot of critics due to the cold remote setting and occasional laughs want to point this film’s inspirations toward Fargo, but I found that although its a small town tale told with distinct characters, its violence is appropriately grisly and in no way cartoonish the way I find the Coens. Although this small town tale’s inspirations remind me of My Bloody Valentine, The X-Files, The Silence of the Lambs, and Hereditary. The filmmaking style most reminded me of Paul Thomas Anderson [Who stole from Robert Altman]. A crime scene investigation punctuated by Ben Lovett’s Jon Brion-like score montages the tedius response to tragedy while attending all the painstaking motions. Its straight out of Magnolia. The comedy comes from how the characters respond to the violence. A later autopsy scene is uniquely intercut with the killing to take the edge off. The borderline incompetent police department lashing out at one another also is a source of laughter. Cummings is a big part of making this work. He does it in a way only he can with his ability to be funny one moment and serious the next with varying degrees of empathy. A talent at work.
It’s nice that this is Robert Forster’s final role as Sheriff Hadley. Considering Hadley’s remarks about young ones having a hard time getting old timers like him off the stage, its a perfect for a widely respected Academy Award nominated actor like him to shine a light on a new young talent. A poignant role considering I had thought his send off in the Breaking Bad movie was perfect. Seeing him one more time here as the Sheriff, similar to his Twin Peaks role warms my heart.
The film looks very handsome and professional considering it was made for less than two million dollars. Natalie Kingston’s cinematography ensures that the camera always moves with motivation and Ben Lovett’s score successfully heightens the mood without drawing too much attention to itself. I look forward to seeing what all involved do next.
Tidbit: I watched Sleepy Hollow for the first time on its 21st Anniversary a few weeks ago and was disappointed with all the talent involved they didn’t make a film like this. I’ll take newbies telling a story with passion over the best in the biz half-cocked any day of the week. Spielberg basically said the same thing.