Christmas films are often associated with warmth, family, togetherness and a general infusion of the joys of the festive season, not horror. However, there are a number of horror films set at the festive season, a time when you would least expect the evils of the world to be on display. Therefore, this year the Alternative Christmas Film Advent Calendar, inspired by last year’s selection of Anna And The Apocalypse, takes aim at Christmas horror films.
After the relentless savagery of yesterday’s calendar feature today the film behind the door is something a fair deal milder – but not without its horror elements. Christmas for many is a time to break out the board games, Cluedo sometimes being a particular favourite; so, let’s take a look at mystery-thriller The Wolf Of Snow Hollow.
Snow Hollow is a small, secluded ghost-white town where something very rarely goes wrong. Life is calm and mild and because of this the local police force is small. However, when dead bodies begin to turn up every full moon the paranoia begins to get to the town – despite the claims of officer John Marshall (writer-director Jim Cummings) that werewolves don’t exist. John already has his own problems, he regularly attends alcoholics anonymous, he struggles to have a proper relationship with his teenage daughter, Jenna (Chloe East) and at work he begins to feel as if he’s losing power, especially in the face of the ailing health of the sheriff (the final film role of Robert Forster).
As the stresses pile up so do the bodies, each one with all the gruesome markings of a wolf attack. Hysteria begins to flow through the town and its police force, including John’s partner Detective Julia Robson (Riki Lindhome), with John himself still being the only one claiming that it’s the work of a murderer, nothing else. The question begins to be asked whether he’s the werewolf, or rather if there really is a werewolf. His sanity begins to decline across the film as the demand to catch the killer rises more and more with every corpse found in the now deep red snow. As his parental obligations are forgotten and he risks not being able to see his daughter again, losing his job and so much more gradually we see the mental state of the protagonist also decline as more obscure happenings occur in an otherwise small, quaint and quiet town that’s still embracing the festive spirit.
Most of the film’s events seemingly take place between Christmas and New Year. Slow carols drone in the background of a number of scenes, while frosty decorations that look as if they’ve seen better days sit, scattered loosely around, in front gardens. The town, cold with its snow, is clearly still embracing the season of peace and goodwill and doesn’t need a series of murders disturbing it. Although, an amusing piece of folklore could certainly give them all something to talk about – The Wolf Of Snow Hollow does sound like it could be a folktale after all.
John is trying throughout to try and get closer to his daughter, both feel that he’s slightly distanced from her. And what better time to show people trying to bond and coming together than Christmas? A number of the themes and ideas throughout the film can certainly be found in more conventional Christmas films. There are some who have already labelled this as a Christmas film, with Cummings gladly accepting such comments – although with it very much in the background and not often mentioned, and most of the other themes in the film, this is certainly, for my money, an alternative Christmas film. With its horror elements fuelled further by the mystery that it brings in, and Cummings already solidified brand of humour, sometimes bordering on dark – this is only his second feature after 2019’s debut indie gem Thunder Road – pushes this further.
Instead of turning the figure of Santa into a murderer, kidnapper, or creating dark, twisted fantastical abilities The Wolf Of Snow Hollow simply goes down the werewolf route. Or at least it implies that it does. It’s a guessing game with various elements that all add to the horror feeling. A film about people, particularly John, struggling to work together around Christmas with increasing worries and stresses. With an element of dark comedy it certainly has its lighter moments, and helps to feel even more like something slightly festive because of this. But, it never forgets its horror related elements and the mysterious potential werewolf that, like Christmas, is always in the background to remind the viewer of the tones and themes of the film.
The Wolf Of Snow Hollow can be watched in the following places:
Or you may have a physical copy of the film on Blu-Ray or DVD. It’s always good to check JustWatch to see where the film is available to buy, rent or stream in your country.