The Hallow (previously The Woods) from director Corin Hardy is deliberately paced, well directed, perfectly shot and full of terrific special effects. It may be too good for its own good. What do I mean by that? The film is focused on what it wants to accomplish with a singular drive and tone – a tone that, for this viewer, put me right to sleep – twice. This is a tough attribute to ignore, especially for a film that has so much going for it. I want to like this move, I truly do; but, it is hard to get excited for a film that lulls me into a quiet slumber just when the action is getting good. To be fair, I gave the film a second shot, watching it first late in the evening and then again in the early afternoon. Sadly, the same effect happens at the exact same spot. Gah! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…
I struggle to admit this in writing because The Hallow has nearly everything I like in a horror film, mainly monsters. The film is full of creature effects, well used, well lit and well integrated into the plot. The film is also very lush with rich, deeply colored cinematography. The acting is above par with the small cast giving it more than is overly evident in the dialog and plot. The Hallow is set up to be a home run, an instant win and a favorite for 2015. But, the tone and plodding pace make the whole less than its parts. It’s an odd beast. The Hallow is just shy of achieving the special impact that makes it one to remember for ages, getting so close and falling so short makes it, regrettably, forgettable instead. It’s a real, heartbreaking shame.
The script follows the Hitchens family – a husband, wife and young child – moving to a remote location in the Irish countryside. Adam (Joseph Mawle) is investigating the woods, marking trees, gaining the reputation with the locals as a “tree doctor” which is not entirely true. He regularly ventures into the woods, deep into the woods, with his toddler child strapped to his back where he discovers a fungus like substance that catches his curiosity. Meanwhile, the locals who are concerned that Adam is trespassing harass his wife, Clare (Bojana Novakovic), while she remains home alone, begging her to have him cease his walks into the woods. “It’s his job,” she replies. The more Adam investigates the tar-like substance he scooped up from the woods, the more he realizes what the locals are wanting him to avoid. Before long, the secrets held in check begin to crawl their way out of their vegetate canopy, looking to claim the Hitchens’ baby as one of their own. Adam and Clare fight to prevent their child from becoming part of…”The Hallow.”
Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic make for a realistic Irish couple providing Adam and Clare with a natural and organic relationship. They appear to be the couple you know living down the street. Unfortunately, they are not the most lively nor energetic couple. In fact, they are quite boring. They’re well adjusted. They obviously love each other. They’re responsible. They are going through a very non-eventful point in their lives as Adam does his work in the woods and Clare takes care of their new home, having moved in nearly thirty days prior. Sure, all this is set to be turned upside down in the coming 97 minutes, but, man, getting there is a chore for them – and for the audience. They do manage to escape their day-to-day bland mediocrity once the hallow creatures attack, but even then it is only when the stakes are at their highest. At one point, they are struggling to get the car moving as the creatures make themselves known for the first time, providing Novakovic a grand opportunity to amp up the chaos and intensity. She gets another chance to shine when the hallow attack their home where she is trapped in the attic. Powerful and intense stuff, only wish there was more where that came from. Shortly after this riveting scene it is back to slower, drawn-out sequences.
One of the true highlights of The Hallow are the creature effects for the monsters, “the hallow” themselves. They are inspired and creepy – and gorgeous to look at in their own disturbing way. From the first indication of what they are, when they are seen briefly stepping out of the shadows into the light from the taillights to their full-on reveal when they attack the Hitchens’ home, they are remarkable, everything you want in a creature feature horror film. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes with a few noteworthy variations. One is just a long arm that forces its way through a hole in the trap door of the attic. The creature it is attached to is never presented in this particular scene which makes the effect all that more horrifying. What the hell is this thing attached to, holy crap! Another highlight is the Cora Hallow played by Charlotte Williams which is frightening and ghoulish. In addition, there is an ample amount of body-horror thrown in as well.
Corin Hardy makes a striking first impression with The Hallow. He handles the location, staging and effects work with a solid and exact eye. The cinematography from Martijn Van Broekhuizen is notable and extraordinay, giving the film a lush, mysterious and eerie fantasy-horror quality. Hardy makes distinct pacing choices that serve the film as intended – regardless of how the choice affected this particular viewer. The Hallow feels very much his vision and that is a win in many ways. Hardy, as of this writing, is the latest director to be attached to The Crow reboot from the recently revitalized Relativity Media production company. The Hallow shows off Hardy’s talent and skill, making The Crow project that much more interesting with his name attached. Whatever Hardy’s next project ends up becoming, I am definitely on board to seeing how it turns out.
The Hallow is a challenging film for this viewer as the deliberate pacing and lack of highs and lows had a far too quiescence affect on me, making me literally fall fast asleep even with multiple viewings. However, the films is so interesting, so unique, I did make a strong effort to re-watch the film until I was able to consume it all while conscious. It is worth that effort. The film is stronger in its parts than in its whole due to these issues. The creature effects are what most horror fans are going to gravitate towards and they do not disappoint. They are extraordinary. The film, while never “scary,” does have its share of intense scenes scattered throughout. The cast, Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic as the Hitchens family, are well suited for the script, giving the film their all. They are fantastic, but the characters themselves are just too dull, needing something a little more cinematic to liven them up. The director, Corin Hardy, is a talent to watch out for with this film being a terrific example of how he handles pacing, effects, staging and cinematography. His work is impressive. The Hallow is a film noteworthy for its intentions and craftsmanship alone and is one to seek out.
The Hallow (3 / 5)