The Hallow (a film review by Frank Ochieng)
There is no doubt that the majority of horror flicks being churned out for the big screen incorporate a grand and glossy look that feels majestic in all its expressive macabre tendencies. Sure, the elegance of a fright fantasy that pushes its visually sumptuous sheen will enhance the surrealistic gore with more eye-popping resonance. However, as much as opulence in presentation is a plus for horror and suspense yarns there is also the undermining element that takes away from such a crafty-looking creepy showcase – the atmospheric vibe of manufactured scares and the slight serving of a familiar but transparent storyline. Based on these sentiments one may come across the hollow leanings in’ The Hallow’, a breezy-minded backwoods boofest that explores the same old tired recipe for the jeopardised state of the family union.
It is such a crying shame that ‘The Hallow’ missed a golden opportunity to mesh its stunning and captive visual vibrancy with a decent domestic doom-and-gloom story that hangs its horrific hat on the legacy of a haunting venue with a shady past. Instead, ‘The Hallow’ delivers a pedestrian fear-inducing fairy tale that never quite seems to stimulate beyond its impressive scope of shadowy aesthetics. In fact, ‘The Hallow’ is not known for its costly budget so it is more intriguing that this horror film confidently gleams in its polished appearance. Still, it costs absolutely nothing to conceive a meaty story and putting an emphasis on a goosebump narrative that could have been more charging and challenging in its storytelling should have been the instinctive order of business.
Irish filmmaker Corin Hardy (slated to direct the upcoming remake of ‘The Crow’) shows some creative and technical promise in his first feature film ‘The Hallow’. Hardy certainly is not the first (and will not be the last) movie-maker to borrow and blend some of his pulsating parts from other widely known and obscure fright genres. Hardy does have an eye for skillfully conveying the edgy moments and tapping into the tension that ‘The Hallow’ flirts with so impishly. Again, if there was a notable twist of tawdriness or something that could propel ‘The Hallow’ from its occasional stagnation of the usual sedate chills-and-thrills scenario then Hardy’s finely colorful and calculating creepfest would have been marvelously realised as the pleasing twitchy ‘reel deal’.
Of course, by now, horror fans will recognise the premise to ‘The Hallow’ as it is an obvious and over-used cliché in fright fables concerning the welfare of a family moving to a seemingly reasonable place with its overflowing share of demonic activity attached to its rancid reputation. Naturally, the residence in question has to be isolated in the middle of a wooded wonderland. Family man Adam Hitchens (Josprh Mawle) relocates his loved ones from lively London to the cluttered and mysterious forest surrounding a quaint millhouse in Ireland. Hopefully, the Hitchens clan will enjoy their new surroundings without incident. How silly of them to think so, huh?
Innocently, conservationist Adam starts to roam through the woods often with his toddler son’ Finn’ accompanying him on his assignments for tree inspections. However, Adam’s venture into the wooded wasteland does not sit well with many of the locals, especially neighbour Colm (Michael McElhatton) in particular. Everyone feels that the unsuspecting Adam is risking the fate of their entire safety by intruding on ‘the hallow’ as he invades this mythical menace’s personal space of routinely walking through the forest region. Indeed, Adam is warned by Colm and others about his tendency to tip-toe through the forbidden forest. Soon, a wake-up call for Adam and his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) is acknowledged when gruesome discoveries in the woods are detected, such as a dead deer as a curious research specimen, and the creatures from the nearby woods are now retaliating against the Hitchens crew. The payback is a costly price to pay as the hallow’s creatures look to control the psychological strings of their precious child Finn. This form of intimidation is too much to handle for the family as they must now protect Finn and their own interests from succumbing to the creep-like clutches of the deranged hallow.
Hardy, who co-wrote the screenplay along with Filipe Marino, does brandish some squirm-inducing sequences and the fear content in ‘The Hallow’ does provide its cherished moments of twisted, low-key winces and uneasiness. The so-called madness behind the mythology of paranoia that runs so rampart in Hardy’s expose of child endangerment, environmental curiosities and old-fashioned haunting hedonism seems rather ambitious and, interestingly, tied together in one naughty knot. Nevertheless, Hardy’s valiant attempt to juggle these fear factors simply feels standard in a horror show that had viable potential for pushing its caustic buttons more convincingly. From Martijn van Broekhuizen’s fetching cinematography to the serviceable special effects that actually shine in this chilly production, ‘The Hallow’ is a good-looking and competent chiller but it mere settles for meager jolts without going full force and complimenting its technical tenacity.
The performances in ‘The Hallow’ are steady and the tingling sensation that overcomes both Mawle’s Adam and Novakovic’s Clare in the middle of the creepy conflicts are effective more times than not. Hardy’s sparkling frightfest had the aforementioned noteworthy visual ingredients but the tepid tale needed some penetrating punch to its psychological jawbone. A walk through ‘The Hallow’s wicked woods should be met with a thick tree trunk of terror and not with a mere branch of a customary yelp.
The Hallow (2015)
1 hr. 37 mins.
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Gary Lydon and Michael Smiley
Directed and Co-Written by: Colin Hardy
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror and Suspense
Critic’s rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015