Director Corin Hardy’s film, The Hallow is about a hapless couple who find their rural home under assault by an encroaching supernatural threat — it’s a textbook survive through the night creature feature. The film eschews in your face violence and gore, instead choosing to wash the audience in a dread infused 90-minutes of survival horror. While underdeveloped lead characters prevent The Hallow from reaching must-see horror movie status, there are more than enough frights to make the film a fun watch.
The Hallow features Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic as Adam and Claire Hitchens, a married couple that leave the hustle and bustle of city life to relocate in a remote forest. Adam is a conservationist, and spends his days (Bjorn bound new born baby in tow) studying the ancient woods that surround the family’s home. While Adam is out exploring the forrest, a concerned neighbour (Michael McElhatton) keeps showing up, warning Claire that trespassing in the woods makes her family a target. Dismissing the warnings as the rantings of a country bumpkin, Adam continues venturing into the woods, which incurs the wrath of the forest’s supernatural inhabitants (a mythological race of creatures with a penchant for baby stealing). As the creatures make their presence known by inflicting their rancor on Adam and Claire, the trapped couple must fight to protect their child and survive night.
The Hallow scores points for originality. While every genre loving filmmaker under the sun continues wearing out the cinematic welcome of vampires, zombies, and witches, Hardy took an unconventional route by choosing to explore the untapped Irish mythology found in The Hallow. Like most movie creatures, the fairy/child snatchers are at their most terrifying when the movie features them the least. The creatures are over exposed by the end of the film — showing up in droves and feeling less like monsters and more like pests — however, their insidious motives and abhorrent appearances ensure that their presence remains unsettling,
The film works best in the first half as Hardy’s deliberate pacing slowly ratchets up the tension by focusing more on the vulnerability that comes along with the Hitchen’s isolation. The Hallow’s first half shows a great deal of restraint, taking its time building towards several blood curdling set pieces that place Adam and Claire in the creatures cross hairs with no obvious way to defend themselves. These unnerving moments are well executed and ensure a large portion of the audience won’t get a decent night’s sleep for at least a week. Depending on one’s tastes, the film either evolves or devolves into more of an action thriller, focusing on jump scares and the protagonist’s fallible character logic to keep the film’s pace accelerating.
The Hallow isn’t the type of movie where a series of victims gets picked off one by one until a final survivor remains to face the killer. There are only two characters to carry the film so it’s essential that the script provides each of them with enough depth for the audience to become invested in their roles. Sadly, the film doesn’t. The Hallow introduces Adam and Claire as two weed smoking, city dwelling, tree-hugging liberals but doesn’t offer any other compelling reasons to care about them after that. Once the action starts, the audience roots for the couple because they don’t want to see decent folks hunted down by malevolent beings, not because the characters are funny, clever or just plain likable. Had Hardy and Felipe Marino’s screenplay added a few moments to enhance Adam and Claire’s chemistry the film could have risen above the level of standard horror movie fare.
The Hallow is a legitimately creepy movie and offers spine tingling imagery that will ensure a large portion of the film’s audience won’t be turning off their night lights when they go to bed. However, the more hard-core horror fan will find the film’s third act tedious. Despite never rising to a level worthy of an enthusiastic endorsement, The Hallow remains a great looking movie with a unique mythology, disturbing creatures, and a chilling atmosphere. The Hallow is worth recommending.