THE HOLLOW is a southern-fried crime tale from writer/producer/director/star Miles Doleac, and is billed as a hybrid between the Coen brothers’ BLOOD SIMPLE and Lynch’s TWIN PEAKS, however, I’d be inclined to say it more closely follows in the footsteps of “True Detective”‘s first season if it must be grouped in with something of its ilk.
The action takes place in Mississippi, and begins with a triple homicide at a local teen hangout known as “the hollow”. One of the victims happens to be the daughter of a congressman, and the FBI are called in to investigate. Vaughn (James Callis, or as I like to refer to him, “that guy from ‘Battlestar Galactica'”) and his partner Sarah (Christiane Seidel) arrive on scene and find themselves trapped between Ray (Miles Doleac), a corrupt cop who deals drugs and frequents prostitutes in his spare time, and Big John Dawson (William Forsythe), a mysterious figure who seems to be calling all the shots.
The investigation itself quickly takes a backseat, merely providing a framework from which the real meat of the story hangs. The main focus is the mental anguish and personal demons of the characters, with the murders serving as a catalyst that brings them all to the surface. THE HOLLOW knows what kind of story it wants to be. It’s a character drama that forces city slickers to collide with the country folk. It wants to play on those tensions, but it never quite gets off the ground.
There’s a lack of energy in many of the scenes. They go on for too long without much sense of urgency. The tone is consistently downbeat, with most of the characters never cracking a smile. James Callis’ performance in particular is intense and emotional, but there’s nothing to contrast it with, and as a result the overall package feels monotone. There’s not a great deal of chemistry between him and Seidel. They come across as a no-fun version of Mulder and Scully.
Miles Doleac himself gives a serviceable performance, but the dry script lets him down. The supporting cast is populated with reliable B-listers (I can’t tell you how happy I am whenever I see the supremely underrated Bill Sadler) but they’re never given much to work with. The screenplay feels like it could have been edited down and used as an episode of one of television’s countless police procedurals.
With these gritty southern crime films, I want to see the sweat dripping, hear the buzzing of the mosquitoes, and feel the heat emanating off the screen. While it’s completely shot and edited, it’s not done with a great deal of panache. The digital look is smothered in amber color grading, which I assume was meant to give it a warm, sunny atmosphere, but it just looks sickly.
The film needed more grime, more grit… more grue. I mean, yeah, sure, I’m writing this review for a site that typically covers horror films, which may skew my opinion on that aspect of the production, but I think it would have helped to see some more blood. Some more mayhem. Too long goes by without THE HOLLOW showing us why we should be repulsed by what’s happening. It needs to make us uneasy and throw us headfirst into the unpleasant world its characters inhabit. It never quite does.
There are so many crime stories on television these days, which makes THE HOLLOW hard to sell as a feature film. It doesn’t do enough to justify its jump to the big screen, despite the presence of a number of likeable supporting actors. Jeff Fahey makes a short but pointless appearance, and even the Lawnmower Man himself can’t save it. I could only recommend it to the most hardcore aficionados of crime fiction, or to people who really like the color orange.