Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 37 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Directed by: Corin Hardy
Written by: Corin Hardy
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton & Michael Smiley
Ever since I started attending yearly Sundance screenings, there always seem to be two interesting films with conflicting showtimes. This year, those two films were THE HALLOW and IT FOLLOWS. I decided to go with IT FOLLOWS and proceeded to wait for months to catch my first glimpse of the folklore-inspired HALLOW. Having finally seen the film, I can say that I’m glad I chose IT FOLLOWS over this creature feature. There’s nothing particularly terrible about THE HALLOW. The film boasts impressive cinematography and crazy practical effects, but is fairly standard stuff in terms of characters and plot.
Adam Hitchens is a British conversationalist who has recently moved his family (wife and baby) to the Irish countryside. In spite of warnings from the intimidating locals, Adam proceeds to trek into the woods, cutting off parts of trees and mucking about where he probably shouldn’t. However, Adam takes one step too far into the spooky forest and some baby-snatching fairy-folk come knocking for his child. In an effort to keep his family safe and survive the night, Adam must lock the doors, arm himself, and hope for the best.
As mentioned before, THE HALLOW is a very good-looking movie. There’s a thick, fog-laden atmosphere throughout as well as palpable dread in the first act. The film is at its strongest when the fairy folk are merely hiding at the edge of the woods and we only catch a passing glimpse of one. The effects used to bring these monsters to life are a combination of people in suits (likely contortionists) and puppetry. To be fair, these fairies look freaky and there’s a cool origin story behind them that’s more implied than outright stated. However, we see entirely too much of them after the first act. THE HALLOW does a nice job of building up tension in the opening and then turns into an all-out chase/showdown between the family and the fairies for the next hour of the film. When you keep showing your monsters and nothing changes about them, they become less scary and threatening. The same effect happened in the DON’T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK remake, which also dealt with evil fairies and dark folklore. As a result, the monsters are less than frightening by the time the last act arrives.
THE HALLOW also has rather sloppy writing in its script. There are a few cool ideas here (one of which adds a scientific possibility for the fairy folk), but the characters and basic story are very by-the-numbers. All we know about Adam is that he’s a guy trekking into areas where he shouldn’t be. All we know about his wife is that she’s timid, frightened and desperately clings to their crying child for a majority of the film. Neither of these characters change much as the story progresses forward. To boot, there are certain plot developments that are telegraphed way too far in advance for moviegoers who are even paying the slightest bit of attention. I wish that the script didn’t highlight early foreshadowing in a blatantly upfront way that made one “twist” ridiculously obvious as opposed to a shocking surprise. The overly predictable plot results in the running time becoming slightly tedious during the second half as we just wait for certain scenes to happen.
I wish I could love THE HALLOW. I like when horror films tackle creepy folklore and this film has stellar practical creature effects. It’s an atmospheric, but all too formulaic, ride that happens to be populated with bland characters who make stupid decisions for no other reason than to move the story forward. Don’t get me wrong. This film is entertaining and the monsters look really damn cool. However, there’s just not a lot going on in the story other than a family being warned for the first 30 minutes and then chased around by evil fairies for the last hour. As a whole, THE HALLOW is a fun, predictable horror flick that has beautiful visuals and freaky monsters. Those are about the only merits that I can recommend it on though.