Director: Corin Hardy
Cast: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic and Michael McElhatton
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: November 13th
A young couple have just moved into a house located in a remote area in the country. Upon their arrival the strange locals, who warn them about a local curse/myth, treat them with suspicion immediately. They ignore these warnings, believing them as nonsense, but only realise the errors of their ways once all hell breaks loose and are soon struggling to survive against an unknown entity.
No one can accuse Corin Hardy, a visual artist making his directorial debut, of breaking any new ground in terms of plot. The fact that The Hallow sticks to a generic formula is not a fault in itself, after all one of the most acclaimed horror films of recent years, David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows, proudly wore its genre influences on its sleeve. The Hallow is certainly not in the same league as that film, but the film’s dedication to practical and visual effects make it a nice relief from the CGI laden fare that populates most of mainstream horror today.
The young couple in question are Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare (Bojana Novakovic), who have moved into an old, slightly run down house in the Irish countryside with their infant son Finn. A dour and intimidating neighbour Colm (Michael McElhatton) warns Clare that she and Adam shouldn’t go into the woodlands that surround their house, as the evil spirits that dwell there prey on local children. This proves to be a problem given that Adam’s job as a conservationist requires him to frequently explore those very woodlands, often with young Finn strapped to his back. It doesn’t take long for the possessed inhabitants of the forests to terrorise the newcomers, leaving Adam and Clare desperate to escape these lands and protect Finn.
The HAllow doesn’t take long to set its story in motion, from the opening scenes we see Adam in the forest with Finn and his dog, discovering a decomposing deer carcass, covered in some mysterious black slime. This slime ends up infecting Adam, causing him to spend most of the second half of it in a transformative state, and is one of the creatures that Hardy employs to create suspense. These creatures are certainly responsible for its best set pieces, the most notable being a scene in which Adam finds himself locked in the boot of his car, as the sinister beings attempt to break in to snatch Finn, who is strapped in a baby chair in the back seat. Hardy and his cinematographer, Martijn Van Broekhuizen, do a superb job invoking a real sense of claustrophobia to the scene, creating tension by putting us in the mindset of Adam.
While the well rendered creatures and finely executed set pieces make it enjoyable, it is let down somewhat by its lack of interest in exploring its own subtext. Ideas of environmentalism and gentrification, the woods themselves are to be torn down for construction work, are touched upon then promptly ignored. Meanwhile the characters themselves are not interesting enough to go beyond their formulaic progression through the story, though Mawle and Novakovic do a stellar job at fleshing out these characters as best as they can. It is here that the over-familiarity with the mechanics of the story cause its biggest problems, as the characters of Clare and Adam never go beyond the general characterisation of scream queen/concerned wife/mother and arrogant intellectual whose disregard of tradition turns out to be his downfall.
While it’s by the numbers plot and characters lets it down at times, visually, both in terms of its effect and cinematography, The Hallow is a well executed creature feature, one that is worth checking out for genre fans, even though if it is unlikely to leave that much of a lasting impression.