A few words on the films of Jim Cummings
Jim Cumming’s feature debut, 2018’s Thunder Road, had sat dormant for a while on my watchlist before finally being nominated as one of our weekend films early in 2020’s lockdown. While the indie flick is part and parcel of my movie viewing experience, I’m often reluctant to select them for family movie night, where high paced action is more welcome.
Luckily Thunder Road, a dark comedy detailing the mental unravelling of police officer Jim Arnaud (played by Jim Cummings himself) after a divorce and the death of his mother, went down a treat.
The film rides the fine line between being downright tragic and outright comedic, a margin when assembled right can produce a truly brilliant piece of work. I’ll be honest, I think I almost lost my parents attention during the opening scene; an almost 11 minute single shot of Jim’s eclectic eulogy at his Mother’s funeral. Armed with a pink CD player, we watch in real time as Jim collapses through the emotions, from prepared heartfelt anecdote to full on teary breakdown and finally to an odd silent dance number after the CD player fails to work. The scene sets the tone for the rest of a film; over the subsequent 80 minutes we witness the gradual breakdown of Jim as he deals with the trials and tribulations of everyday life.
The film features a strong supporting cast including Nican Robinson as fellow Officer Nate Lewis, Chelsea Edmundson as ex wife Morgan Arnaud and a guest appearance from Macon Blair as Jim’s daughter teacher, in possibly the funniest scene of the film. However a special mention has to be given to Kendal Farr, who plays Jim’s daughter Crystal. The young actor fairly holds her own in some of the more intense and challenging scenes alongside Cummings.
Overall the main selling point I’d put forward after viewing Thunder Road is the performance of Jim Cummings himself. I’m not usually a fan of actors who also write and direct the film they’re starring in, but with Thunder Road Cummings has produced a character that I could only see him playing. He fluctuates from hilarity to sadness, often within a single scene, creating a tale where you don’t quite know whether to laugh or cry once the credits start to roll.
At the time of writing Thunder Road is available on Netflix.
When I first learnt that Jim Cumming’s sophomore feature The Wolf of Snow Hollow would be a Werewolf Horror Film I was pretty intrigued, and after watching the trailer I was positively excited, as it looked like Thunder Road but bigger, funnier and scarier.
Watched in the build up to Halloween, the film well and truly exceeded my expectations and is possibly my favourite “horror” of 2020.
Similar to Thunder Road, The Wolf of Snow Hollow is directed by Jim Cummings, written by Jim Cummings and stars Jim Cummings. Furthermore, Jim returns as a police officer (this time John Marshall), he once again is a having issues with his significant other, and once again he has a young daughter he has trouble connecting with. At face value it’s very easy to say this is simply Thunder Road with a Werewolf, but the film is so much more than that.
Armed with a much larger budget, Jim Cummings and his team were able to produce a film with a much larger scope, and brought on some mainstream talent in the supporting roles. Jim’s John Marshall, tasked with finding a Killer on a homicidal rampage in his small snowy mountain town, feels like he’s losing his mind as everyone but him believes the murders to be the work of an actual werewolf. Alongside Jim Cummings the film stars Riki Lindhome as Detective Julia Robson, Jimmy Tatro as PJ, boyfriend of one of the victims, and also legendary actor Robert Forester in his final acting role, as Sheriff Hadley.
Although I rate both Thunder Road and Snow Hollow on the same level of excellence; the later just feels bigger, the stakes are higher and the overall production feels more polished. Any fear that the larger film would lessen Cummings lead performance can be immediately shot down. Jim shines just as much on Snow Hollow, perfectly at home in the intense horror thriller as he did in the indie flick.
With his next directing gig The Beta Test due in 2021 I’m excited to see how his career plays out, whether behind the camera or in front it is sure to be a blast.
At the time of writing The Wolf of Snow Hollow is available on DVD and VOD. For more on the film you can check out Ollie’s interview with Cumming’s frequent collaborator, producer Benjamin Wiessner, exclusively on Closely Observed Frames.