Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the recent Irish horror flick, The Hallow (2015). The storyline is fairly simple, so here it is:
“A man moves his family into a remote mill house in Ireland while he studies the surrounding forest. They soon find themselves in a fight for survival with creatures living in the woods.”
Let me admit a bias right up front: I love monster movies. I love them so much that a poorly made creature feature will receive my wrath in ways that even a middle of the road horror movie never would. This is because, for me, a well done creature feature ranks right up there with the best of what horror can do as it draws together a sense of unease, mystery, and scares. Approaching this, I had high expectations, so how did it rank?
I am going to flip the script a bit and start out with the creature design. In brief, they are fantastic. The monsters were achieved with a mix of practical effects and CGI, but for the most part look completely practically done. In a way, using a mix is thematically ideal for this movie as the creatures are supposed to look somewhat human while still having an otherworldly quality. The fact that each one of the crawling beasties bears a slightly human countenance only further enhances their creepiness.
As the story kicks into high gear, this blurring of the line between human and nature becomes especially prevalent. The beginning spends about thirty to forty minutes setting up the little family while at the same time making sure that we know there is something going on out in the forest. When the wood creatures begin to attack, we start to see the line between man and beast blurred. At moments, this can be quite uncomfortable for the viewer as some very nasty implications are made about what exactly is happening. One of the most effective scenes (which I will not give away) makes us question the sanity of one of our leads.
The leads themselves both turn in good performances for characters that are not very fleshed out. This proves to be one of the weakest areas of the picture as we spend quite a bit of time with both characters yet learn very little about either. There are some broad strokes made as to who they are, but overall it really is up to the actors to create the nuance and the chemistry that makes us care enough about this couple to want to see them survive.
To be honest, given that this feature goes into some weird body terror moments, I was expecting a heck of a lot more gore. Most of the violence is too dark to see, implied more than shown, or equivalent to what one would see on basic cable. I found it impressive that with a concept that seems to demand a fair amount of blood and guts, very little ever made it to the screen. Fair warning, though, even if the imagery is not nearly as gruesome as it could have been, the sound effects are quite disturbing as they help us to imagine some of the scenes that are kept from our view.
The use of darkness is not only essential to the overall story, but also effective in creating a more forbidding atmosphere. As the lead actors wander around in the foggy darkness, the slowly climbing score builds the tension as to what might happen next. The sense of dread this creates is potent, but also something that long time horror fans have come to expect from a scary movie. I will admit, that even knowing what was coming they still managed to get me a few times with the well timed music scare.
All in all, while “The Hallow” may not reinvent the creature feature wheel, this is a compelling monster movie with a great sense of style.
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