Review: ‘The Fabelmans,’ starring Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle and Judd Hirsch

November 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Gabriel LaBelle, Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Keeley Karsten, Julia Butters and Sophia Kopera in “The Fabelmans” (Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures)

“The Fabelmans”

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1952 to 1965, in New Jersey, Arizona, and California, the dramatic film “The Fabelmans” (inspired by director Steven Spielberg’s own youth) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Latinos) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Sammy Fabelman’s parents have contrasting opinions about his childhood dream to become a movie director, and his home life becomes turbulent when he finds out an emotionally painful secret. 

Culture Audience: “The Fabelmans” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Spielberg and anyone interested in coming-of-age stories about famous filmmakers.

Gabriel LaBelle in “The Fabelmans” (Photo by Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal Pictures)

Steven Spielberg tells a very personal story of his youth in “The Fabelmans,” a drama that’s a partial biopic and a therapeutic life analysis. The movie’s overly long run time drags it down, but Michelle Williams gives a transcendent performance as the mother of the fictional version of Spielberg. “The Fabelmans” (which clocks in at 151 minutes) is yet another story about a young person who ends up going to Hollywood to pursue a dream. But in this case, the young person turned out to be the Oscar-winning Spielberg, who is frequently lauded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

Spielberg directed “The Fabelmans” and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Tony Kushner. Spielberg and Kushner previously collaborated on the 2021 remake of “West Side Story,” 2012’s “Lincoln” and 2005’s “Munich.” Spielberg has made a wide variety of films, but many of his movies—especially the ones having to do with outer-space creatures, such as 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and 2005’s “War of the Worlds” remake—have a few themes in common, such as people dealing with fractured families and/or families in conflict because one person in the family is determined to pursue a particular goal against tremendous odds. In “The Fabelmans,” there are no outer-space creatures, but protagonist Sammy Fabelman (a fictional character based on the real-life Spielberg) often feels like he’s a proverbial alien in his own family.

“The Fabelmans” begins in New Jersey, on January 10, 1952. Sammy is 5 years old (played by Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord), and his parents have taken him to the movies to see director Cecil B. DeMille’s circus drama “The Greatest Show on Earth,” starring Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, Charlton Heston, Dorothy Lamour, Gloria Grahame and James Stewart. Before they go into the move theater, Sammy’s mother Mitzi Fabelman (played by Williams) and Sammy’s father Burt Fabelman (played by Paul Dano) assure a fearful Sammy that the people who will look like giants on the big screen are just images from the movie. Sammy doesn’t know it yet, but seeing this movie will change his life.

This moviegoing scene in “The Fabelmans” also establishes from the beginning how Mitzi and Burt have two different parenting styles and contrasting outlooks on life. Burt, who is a computer engineer, tries to explain to Sammy the technical aspects of how a movie projector beams images on the screen and how a human brain processes those images. Mitzi, who is an on-again/off-again professional pianist for radio, explains movies to Sammy this way: “They’re like dreams.” In other words, Burt views life like a scientist, while Mitzi views life like an artist.

It’s later mentioned in the movie that young Sammy has anxiety and is prone to panic attacks. But since he’s a child in the 1950s, when people usually didn’t seek psychiatric care for this medical condition, Sammy doesn’t get therapy in his childhood for his anxiety. The person in his family who is most likely to calm him down is his mother Mitzi, who has mental health struggles of her own. She is the person in the family who is most likely to understand Sammy.

Sitting between his parents while watching “The Greatest Show on Earth,” Sammy is in awe and slightly afraid of what he’s seeing on the big screen. He is particularly impacted by the movie’s train-wreck scene. In this scene, a criminal who has just robbed a circus train, which is stopped on the tracks, drives his car onto the tracks to frantically stop another circus train traveling right behind the first train. His plan doesn’t work, and the second train plows into his car and the first train, causing death and some of the wild circus animals to escape.

After Sammy gets home, his parents notice that he’s become obsessed with trains. As a Hanukkah gift, Sammy’s father gives him a train set. The other members of the Fabelman household are Sammy’s younger sisters Reggie Fabelman (played by Birdie Borria) and Natalie Fabelman (played by Alina Brace).

It isn’t long before Sammy is recreating the train wreck that he saw in “The Greatest Show on Earth.” Burt gets angry because he thinks Sammy isn’t respecting the toy train and is trying to ruin it, so he temporarily takes the train set away from Sammy as punishment. He orders Sammy not to simulate a train wreck when he plays with the toy train.

“I need to see them crash,” Sammy tells his parents to explain why he likes making the train crash into a toy car. Mitzi understands why Sammy has a fascination with creating a train wreck and explains it to Burt that it’s because Sammy wants control over the train. Burt doesn’t care to understand and just thinks Sammy is being a spoiled brat.

One night, after Sammy has gotten his toy train back, Mitzi takes him into the room where the train set is. She tells Sammy that he can crash the train one more time, but they will secretly use Burt’s film camera to film everything, so Sammy can watch the train wreck over and over without actually crashing the train. Mitzi tells Sammy that this film will be their little secret.

Of course, this film is the start of Sammy’s lifelong passion to become a filmmaker. By the following year, in 1953, the Fabelmans have a new addition to the family: a baby named Lisa. Burt gets a job working as a manager at General Electric (GE) in Phoenix, Arizona. Mitzi is supportive of the move, as long as Burt can get his best friend/co-worker Bennie Loewy (played by Seth Rogen) a job at GE too. It’s mentioned several times in the movie that Burt is an exceptional engineer and a computer visionary, while Bennie is an average employee who owes much of his career to getting help from Burt.

The Fabelman kids often call Burt’s best friend Uncle Bennie, even though Bennie isn’t biologically related to them. During a Fabelman family dinner, observant viewers will notice other dynamics in Bennie’s relationship to the Fabelmans. Bennie is a friendly jokester who likes to play harmless pranks and make people laugh, especially Mitzi.

Burt’s outspoken, widowed mother Hadassah Fabelman (played by Jeannie Berlin), who is a frequent visitor in the household, isn’t too fond of Bennie. Hadassah notices how Bennie and Mitzi have a playful banter with each other. Mitzi’s widowed mother Tina Schildkraut (played by Robin Bartlett), who is much more laid-back than Hadassah, doesn’t talk much and only has a few scenes in the movie.

Burt is mild-mannered, nerdy and slow to pick up on body language and social cues to figure out how people are really feeling. He’s a classic introvert who is more likely to consider facts when making a decision. Mitzi is impulsive, moody and very attuned to people’s unsaid thoughts. Mitzi is a classic extrovert, who is more likely to consider feelings when making a decision. Burt prefers to avoid confrontations. Mitzi isn’t afraid of confrontations and will often cause them.

It’s also implied that Mitzi has an undiagnosed mental illness, which is presented in “The Fabelmans” as looking a lot like bipolar disorder. In a scene that takes place in 1953, before the family moves from New Jersey to Arizona, a tornado strikes the area where the Fabelmans live. Instead of wanting to stay safe in their house or a secure shelter, like most people would, Mitzi spontaneously decides to take Sammy, Natalie and Reggie with her in the family car to drive toward the tornado so that they can get a closer look at it. (Mitzi at least has the sense to leave baby Lisa behind with Burt.)

Mitzi makes this decision so quickly, Burt doesn’t have time to stop her, and his protests are ignored. The kids are too young to understand that Mitzi could be putting them in danger, because she acts like this is a fun joy ride. As they get closer to the tornado and the rain storm gets worse, Mitzi stops the car, and the reality sinks in that this isn’t an adventure trip after all. She begins to cry but still pretends to the children that everything is just fine as she dejectedly drives home. You don’t have to be a psychiatrist to see that this incident looks like a manic episode from a person with bipolar disorder.

It’s no secret that in real life, Spielberg’s parents got divorced when he was a teenager. Spielberg has also been open about the reason why they got divorced. He talked about it in director Susan Lacy’s 2017 documentary “Spielberg,” as well as in some interviews that he’s given over the years. But the reason why is parents got divorced will be a surprise to many people who watch “The Fabelmans” for the first time, so those details won’t be revealed in this review.

However, it’s enough to say that by the time the family moves to Phoenix, the cracks in the marriage are already starting to show. “The Fabelmans” then fast-forwards to the family’s life in Arizona during the early-to-mid-1960s. Sammy is now a blossoming teenage filmmaker (played by Gabriel LaBelle), who makes short films (mostly Westerns) with his schoolmates and members of his Boy Scout troop. Sammy gets a lot of praise and admiration from most people around him for his filmmaking. Bennie is in Arizona too, working at GE with Burt and often accompanying the Fabelmans on family gatherings.

After some initial skepticism, Sammy’s father Burt eventually becomes impressed with Sammy’s talent for filmmaking, but Burt is not entirely convinced that filmmaking is a good career choice for Sammy. He often tells Sammy to pursue a more “practical” profession. Burt also keeps calling Sammy’s filmmaking a “hobby,” and Sammy is offended by Burt not taking Sammy’s filmmaking seriously as a future career. By contrast, Mitzi is Sammy’s first and biggest filmmaking fan, and she never wavers or has doubts in encouraging Sammy to become a filmmaker.

Reggie (played by Julia Butters), who’s about two or three years younger than Sammy, is intelligent, assertive and opinionated. She’s also the sister who has the closest emotional bond to Sammy, and he values her opinion. (Reggie is based on Spielberg’s real-sister Anne, who became a screenwriter.) For example, while Steven is editing his short films, he sometimes shows Nancy early cuts of the films and asks her what she thinks.

Natalie (played by Keeley Karsten), who’s about four years younger than Sammy, is a polite and obedient kid. She’s based on Steven Spielberg’s middle sister Sue, who’s actually seven years younger than he is. Sammy’s youngest sister Lisa (played by Sophia Kopera), who’s six years younger than Sammy, doesn’t have much of a personality in the movie at all. (Lisa is based on Steven Spielberg’s youngest sister Nancy, who’s actually 10 years younger than he is.)

With the Fabelman kids at an age where they are all now in school, Mitzi begins to take up professional piano playing for radio again. The family members (with Bennie) often gather in their living room to watch Mitzi practice. Burt is reluctant to give any criticism to Mitzi, while Bennie is more forthright and isn’t afraid to tell Mitzi what he thinks.

There’s a telling scene where Mitzi’s long fingernails cause a clacking noise when she plays the piano. Burt denies there’s anything wrong with that, but Bennie says it’s going to be a problem for radio listeners to hear this clacking noise during Mitzi’s piano playing. Mitzi takes pride in her long, well-manicured fingernails and doesn’t want to cut them. She eventually relents when Bennie and some of the kids playfully tackle her, and Bennie cuts her nails.

One of the most memorable sequences in “The Fabelmans” is a fateful camping trip that the family takes while living in Arizona. Everything is going well. Everyone seems to be happy. Sammy is filming everything that he can during this trip.

One night during a campfire, Mitzi spontaneously decides to do a ballet dance in front of Burt, Bennie, Sammy and Reggie while she’s wearing a thin-fabric nightgown. Sammy is filming it, of course. In order to get better lighting, Bennie turns on the headlights of a car parked nearby. The bright lights essentially cause Mitzi’s nightgown to become see-through, and it’s obviously she’s completely naked underneath the gown.

Reggie is mortified, and she runs up to her mother to tell her discreetly that everyone can see through Mitzi’s nightgown. Mitzi ignores her and keeps dancing, while Reggie pleads for her mother to stop. Mitzi keeps dancing, while an annoyed Reggie runs away and says that everyone there is crazy.

Mitzi’s only audience is now Bennie, Burt and Sammy, who keeps the camera focused on Mitzi. All of them are looking at Mitzi, almost as if they’re in a trance. Their fascination with her is for different reasons, which can all be seen on the expressions on their faces. Sammy being in awe isn’t incestuous, although it does come across as a little creepy that he’s staring at his mother’s nearly naked body.

This scene shows that Sammy is so enthralled with his filmmaking and what he’s getting on camera, it’s almost as if he forgot that the woman in the see-through gown in front of him is his own mother. When Mitzi ends the dance, she looks at everyone staring at her with a expression of satisfaction but also a tinge of sadness. Later, when the family looks at the footage, Mitzi praises Sammy by telling him, “You really see me.”

Another pivotal sequence in “The Fabelmans” happens when Mitzi’s uncle Boris (played by Judd Hirsch) shows up at the Fabelmans’ home in Phoenix for a surprise visit. This visit happens after Mitzi had a nightmarish dream that her mother Tina (Boris’ sister) called Mitzi to warn her that something was coming. According to Mitzi, Boris used to bully Tina when Tina was a child, and Mitzi grew up in fear of him too. And so, when Boris arrives at the home, Mitzi greets him with a lot of apprehension, but she eventually relaxes when she sees that Boris is nice to her and her family.

Boris, who is now an elderly man, spent much of his life as a lion trainer in the circus. He has a personality that is eccentric and “in your face.” He’s a raconteur who likes to tell stories about himself, and he has a voice that compels people to pay attention to him. In other words, it’s impossible to ignore Boris when he’s in a room.

When Boris finds out that Sammy is an aspiring filmmaker, he begins to give Sammy advice on what to expect in life if Sammy wants to be an artist. Sammy doesn’t see the connection between being an artist and a circus lion trainer, until Boris explains that there’s no art in putting your head in a lion, but there’s an art in keeping the lion from biting your head while in a lion’s mouth.

Boris warns Sammy that artists will have always have a tug of war between art and family. He also tells Sammy that being an artist also means often being very lonely. Sammy is both awed and intimidated by Boris, especially after Boris puts Sammy in headlock in an awkward way to show Sammy to remember that physical pain every time Sammy has to suffer as an artist.

The last third of “The Fabelmans” could have been its own movie because of all the things that happen. In this part of the film, the Fabelmans move once again—this time to California’s Santa Clara County, because Burt has gotten a major job offer to work for IBM. Mitzi and Sammy (who is in his last year of high school) are very unhappy with this move, and the family starts to crumble over various things. Unlike their life in Arizona, where they lived near several other Jewish families, the Fabelmans are the only Jewish family in their California neighborhood.

At school, Sammy is a misfit loner who gets bullied by the school’s star athletes, led by a conceited pretty boy named Logan Hall (played by Sam Rechner), who is also in his last year of high school. Logan has a weaselly sidekick named Chad Thomas (played by Oakes Fegley), who openly hates Jewish people. Sammy experiences some cruel antisemitism from Chad, Logan and other students who stand by and laugh when Sammy gets bullied for being Jewish.

Sammy also gets caught up in some drama between Logan’s girlfriend Claudia Denning (played by Isabelle Kusman) and Logan. It leads to Sammy getting to closer to Claudia and Claudia’s best friend Monica Sherwood (played by Chloe East), who is a self-described Jesus freak. Monica is fascinated by Sammy being Jewish, so her interest in him is a combination of teenage lust and a desire to turn him on to Christianity.

The last third of “The Fabelmans” is the best part of the movie, but it’s also the messiest. It mostly chronicles Sammy’s last year in high school in California, and it offers a glimpse into his life after high school. (Real-life filmmaker David Lynch has a noteworthy cameo as legendary filmmaker John Ford.) Sammy’s life after high school and during college is so truncated, it’s obvious to viewers that a significant part of the story is missing, to the detriment of the movie, which is already too long. In other words, this story should have been a miniseries, not a feature-length film.

However, there’s no denying that “The Fabelmans” does a stellar job of depicting Sammy coming to terms with the fantasies that he escapes to in filmmaking and the harsh realities of life. The movie also skillfully shows that the two most impactful relationships that Sammy had in his youth are Sammy’s relationship with filmmaking and Sammy’s relationship with his mother. The reasons for the family unraveling are heartbreaking but very realistic.

And it’s why Williams is such a standout in a very talented cast. Her portrayal of Mitzi is far from stereotypical and shows many depths and layers to this complicated person. Mitzi has wonderful qualities as well as damaging flaws. Williams makes this character a full, authentic human being, not just someone reciting lines and emoting on screen.

The other principal cast members do well in their roles. Dano is convincing in playing a character who represses a lot of emotions and denies a lot of problems until it’s too late. LaBelle also turns in an admirable performance, considering it’s not easy for any actor to know that he’s playing a young version of Steven Spielberg. Rogen is perfectly fine as family friend Bennie, but this character doesn’t have a lot of screen time, and Rogen (who’s mostly known as a comedic actor) has had better roles to show his dramatic abilities.

“The Fabelmans” is a specific story but it’s also universal to anyone who can relate to pursuing dreams, even when people doubt that certain goals can be accomplished. The movie’s tone has a middle-class American sheen to it that will get some criticism for glossing over a lot of American society problems in the 1950s and 1960s that still exist today. Antisemitism is part of the story, but racism, sexism, poverty and other social ills are completely erased in this movie.

This omission of any of society’s problems outside of Sammy’s limited world in the 1950s and 1960s speaks to how his young life had its share of turmoil, but it was still in a certain “bubble” where he was blissfully unaware or chose to ignore a lot of society’s problems that weren’t about him. It’s a blind spot that many people carry throughout their lives, but “The Fabelmans” offers no real or meaningful introspection about that blind spot.

“The Fabelmans” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival, where the movie won the People’s Choice Award, which is the festival’s top prize. Even with any accolades that this movie receives, when people look back on Steven Spielberg’s most beloved films, “The Fabelmans” won’t be at the top of the list for most people. However long-winded this movie can be, it still showcases Spielberg’s talent for telling emotionally genuine stories about families, as well as expressing why people fall in love with filmmaking.

Universal Pictures released “The Fabelmans” in select U.S. cinemas on November 11, 2022, with an expansion to more U.S. cinemas on November 23, 2022.

Review: ‘The Wolf of Snow Hollow,’ starring Jim Cummings, Riki Lindhome, Robert Forster, Jimmy Tatro and Chloe East

October 9, 2020

by Carla Hay

Robert Forster, Riki Lindhome and Jim Cummings in “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (Photo courtesy of Orion Classics)

“The Wolf of Snow Hollow”

Directed by Jim Cummings

Culture Representation: Taking place in a fictional U.S. city called Snow Hollow, the darkly comedic horror film “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” features a predominantly white cast (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A hot-headed police officer, who wants to be promoted to sheriff, has to contend with an angry ex-wife, a strained relationship with his teenage daughter and widespread speculation that a werewolf is committing a series of murders in his city. 

Culture Audience: “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” will appeal to people who like horror films that have heavy doses of sarcasm, some slapstick humor and underlying social commentary.

Chloe East in “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” (Photo courtesy of Orion Classics)

Because so many horror films follow a certain formula by having extremely heroic protagonists and extremely evil villains, some filmmakers are starting to break out of that formula by having deeply flawed protagonists who aren’t concerned with being likable role models. “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is one such film that mostly succeeds in breaking out of this formulaic horror mold, because the lead character/protagonist is a recovering alcoholic who relapses on the job and has a lot of unpleasant personality traits. Jim Cummings is the writer, director and star of “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” which skillfully mixes an old-school horror mystery with modern anti-hero sensibilities.

In “The Wolf of Snow Hollow,” Cummings plays John Marshall, a fast-talking, irritable 39-year-old police officer who works in a fictional city called Snow Hollow, where the local economy is fueled by skiing and tourism. During a busy ski season, a string of murders happen that could ruin Snow Hollow’s safe reputation. Making things worse, witnesses have reported a werewolf-like figure near the scene of the murders, which only take place during nights with a full moon, so there are rampant rumors that a werewolf is on the loose.

John doesn’t believe in werewolves, so he’s determined to not only catch the apparent serial killer but also prove to everyone that a human has been committing the murders. John has ambitions to be promoted to sheriff, because the most recent person who had the position—Sheriff Dave Hadley (played by Robert Forster)—has retired. Dave also happens to be John’s father, although it’s not explained why they have different last names. It’s mentioned in the movie that John’s mother passed away years ago.

Even though Dave has officially retired, he still shows up for work and is in denial over some signs that he’s having health problems, such as a possible heart murmur. John urges Dave to get medical treatment, but Dave is too stubborn to listen. John has his own health problems too: He’s a recovering alcoholic. One of the movie’s first scenes is of John at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, where he confesses that he’s still angry at his ex-wife Brittany, who’s the mother of their 17-year-old daughter Jenna.

Out of respect for Dave, the police officers still act as if he’s the sheriff when he shows up for work. Unofficially, John takes charge of the murder investigation, which also includes Officer Julia Robson (played by Riki Lindhome), who is much more even-tempered and methodical than John. John’s way of working can best be described as “abrasive” and “impatient.” He often yells at witnesses, other police officers and anyone else he thinks is acting stupid. He also orders people involved in the investigation to do their work faster, even when they tell him that certain procedures can’t be rushed.

One of the people who clashes with John is the city coroner (played by Daniel Fenton Anderson), who insists that the medical findings show canine bites on the murder victims. In addition, large wolf footprints are found near the murder scenes. Every time John is faced with evidence that the murderer might not be human, he flies into a rage, because the murder victims’ bodies have injuries that could only be inflicted by someone who probably had a knife or some other cutting weapon.

For example, the first murder victim’s body was found with her vagina removed. (It’s not shown on screen, but the state of the victim’s body is described when police officers arrive at the crime scene.) All of the murders victims are female, and John doesn’t think it’s a coincidence.

The first murder victim is Brianne Paulson (played by Annie Hamilton), a tourist who was staying at a local private lodge with her boyfriend PJ Palfrey (played by Jimmy Tatro), who discovered her mutilated body outside of the lodge. The police question two local men who got into a small verbal altercation with PJ earlier that night in a restaurant where PJ and Brianne were dining. The men were being drunk and loud in the restaurant, and one of the men used a homophobic slur, which offended PJ, so he asked them to keep their noise level down.

The friend who was with the homophobic man quickly diffused the situation that could have turned into a brawl, and the two men left the restaurant without incident. The two men also said that they had alibis because they were bar hopping for the rest of the night and had the receipts to prove it. PJ is also questioned as a person of interest, and he maintains that he has nothing to do with the crime and didn’t see the murder happen. There’s no evidence that he committed the murder, so PJ is not arrested.

The next murder victim is ski instructor Hannah Marten (played by Hannah Elder), who was killed while PJ had already left the area. PJ is cleared as a possible suspect for Hannah’s murder, but he’s still on the police’s radar for Brianne’s murder, even though it’s looking more and more like the recent killings are being committed by the same murderer. The next victims are Liz Fairchild (played by Kelsey Edwards) and her baby daughter Miley (played Taigelee Wayne). The killing of a child brings even more urgency and pressure on the police to catch the murderer.

In addition to dealing with the stress of the investigation, John is having family problems. John and his daughter Jenna (played by Chloe East) have a rocky relationship because she’s angry about him being an inattentive parent. John’s ex-wife Brittany (played by Rachel Jane Day) also has a lot of bitterness and resentment toward John, and she sees herself to be Jenna’s primary parent. Considering that John is an alcoholic with a bad temper, it’s easy to see why they might be angry with him.

Over a tension-filled lunch at a local restaurant, John tells Brittany and Jenna that he has to work longer hours than usual because of the murder investigation. Jenna is about to enroll in a university in January on a ballet scholarship, and she was hoping that John would be there for her on the day that she moves to her dorm on campus. Brittany puts John on a guilt trip to make him feel like a bad parent, until John practically explodes in anger and promises that he will be there for Jenna on her moving day.

The pressure of the investigation and another tragic event eventually lead John to relapse back into his alcoholic ways. Who or what is the killer? And will the killer be caught? And will John redeem himself and get sober? Those questions are answered in the movie, which infuses the horrifying scares and mystery with some dark humor that is sometimes politically incorrect. The humor works because it’s actually what people might say if they feel comfortable enough to say it around certain people.

For example, there’s a scene where John and some of the other male police officers are discussing murder victim Brianne Paulson’s mutilated body that had her vagina removed by the murderer. Officer Chavez (played by Demetrius Daniels) comments, “My heart goes out to the boyfriend. It’s the ultimate ‘blue balls’ story.” In another scene, Dave gives a pep talk to his fellow officers and says, in reference to legislation requiring the separation of church and state: “I won’t ask you to pray with me because of the goddamn lawyers.”

Compared to other horror movies, “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” doesn’t get too gruesome with its violence. The visual effects are adequate, but the movie is more effective in its subtle and not-so-subtle commentaries on overzealous cops and how police could abuse their power during an investigation. Although the supporting actors are good (including the late Forster, in one of his last film roles), “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is really a showcase for Cummings and his talent as an actor, writer and director.

Cummings keeps a fairly brisk pace for the movie, which doesn’t let his John character completely off the hook for how he mistreats people. There are a few scenes where John gets some well-deserved payback from people who won’t put up with his nonsense. “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” is a mostly entertaining comedic horror movie, but it will also make people think about the types of cops who are corrupt and bad-tempered, compared to the criminals they are supposed to catch.

Orion Classics released “The Wolf of Snow Hollow” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and on VOD on October 9, 2020.

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