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IFI Horrorthon 2015 Review - THE HALLOW

A young family make enemies of the creatures living near their new home in rural Ireland.


Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Corin Hardy

Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley




"The Hallow bravely puts its monsters front and centre, but does an effective job of building up to their appearance to a degree sufficient enough for us to accept them without unintentional laughter. The old-school effects bring these fanged fairy folk to life in a way CG simply can't."





Rural Ireland has become a go-to location for the horror genre in recent years. The Hammer production Wake Wood gave Pet Sematary a Celtic twist in its tale of a resurrected child and the ghastly consequences of playing God. A young English couple found themselves stalked by a mysterious killer on the backroads of Ireland in Jeremy Lovering's effective chiller In Fear. Now, in director Corin Hardy's feature debut The Hallow, a London family regret leaving the big smoke for the back of Bally-beyond when they become the target of pissed off fairy folk.
As a radio talk show informs us during the opening credits, Ireland has no publicly owned forests, and so the woods of the Emerald Isle are ripe for exploitation. Moving his family to one heavily forested corner of the country is Adam, a tree surgeon whose job is to mark which trees are ripe for felling. This has riled up the locals, not for the understandable reason of having their idyllic setting disrupted, but rather because they believe the woods are home to an ancient race of fairy creatures. One such local, Liam (Michael McElhatton), does his best to scare off Adam, claiming his own daughter was taken by the creatures, but, understandably so, Adam thinks it's Liam who is away with the fairies.
While exploring the woods, Adam comes across the corpse of a deer and takes home a sample of a mysterious black goo, which displays some very hostile behaviour under a microscope. The same sticky substance begins seeping through the ceiling above his infant son's bed, just before the window in the child's room is broken by an unidentified intruder, who Adam at first believes is one of the angry locals. When Adam's car is disabled in the woods by the same black goo, now hardened into a stalk like material, he finds himself and wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) under siege from an army of angry fairies (Tinkerbell they ain't).
While horror movies are as prolific as ever, there's one sub-genre we don't see too often - the monster movie! Maybe it's because audiences are too cynical now for antagonists who amount to men in rubber suits. Horror today prefers more ambiguous villains, hence the proliferation of haunted house movies. The Hallow bravely puts its monsters front and centre, but does an effective job of building up to their appearance to a degree sufficient enough for us to accept them without unintentional laughter. The old-school effects bring these fanged fairy folk to life in a way CG simply can't. Knowing an actor is playing against a tangible practical effect, rather than a tennis ball on a stick, makes a world of difference, aiding our suspension of disbelief enough to prevent our questioning the verisimilitude of what we're seeing.
Director Corin Hardy makes an impressive debut, skillfully ratcheting up the tension in the first act before a thrilling second act set-piece that sees our protagonists holed up in their home while under siege from the marauding creatures outside. There's an X-Files episode titled Darkness Falls in which Mulder and Scully are trapped in a log cabin while under attack from a swarm of hostile insects. The insects are afraid of light, and the tension comes from knowing the generator powering the cabin's sole light will eventually run down. The Hallow apes this setup very effectively, adding a veneer of marital tension between Adam and Clare over how best to protect their child.
In the final act, the movie veers more toward fantasy than horror, and at this point I began to disengage somewhat, not being a fan of the fantasy genre, and I stopped fearing the fate of our protagonists, as the threat from the creatures is substantially nullified. Given how gripping the middle portion of the film was, The Hallow needs a much stronger finale than the one offered here. That said, there is much to admire here, particularly for fans of the sort of effects that delighted us in movies like The Thing, the Evil Dead series (a book of fairy tales presented here looks an awful lot like the Necronomicon) and the many creations of the late, great Ray Harryhausen.




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