THE HALLOW [Edinburgh Film Festival]

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Adam and Clare are English spouses temporarily relocated to the Irish countryside for Adam’s work. Met with disregard and mistrust by the locals, they are warned of things in the woods that take babies in the night, especially ones like the adorable blob they are raising. It soon becomes all too apparent that strange happenings might not be the work of their disgruntled neighbour, but something far more dangerous.

It soon turns out that they are facing fairies. Not the insipid sparkling insects of Disney films, or even the supernatural warriors of contemporary fantasy, but backwoods legends spoken of in hushed whispers. Vicious creatures of malice and spite, they lurk in the darkened shadows of nature where humanity is yet to exert its influence, embodying primal fears shunted into the darkest recesses of our collective subconscious.

On paper The Hallow sounds like little more than just another generic supernatural horror titled with some ominous-sounding word you don’t quite know the meaning of, but it proves itself far, far superior to such standard fare.

Although the action often utilises standard jump scares, they are timed in such a way that they manage to surprise you. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with the application of judicious lighting choices and well-timed sound effects. Similarly, camera angles are positioned in such a manner to make you expect something to leap into frame, only for something else to appear elsewhere right at the moment you let your guard down, or shots lingering for a few moments on something you can’t quite make out. It’s like someone finally paid attention to Scream, and then transposed the lessons to Irish folklore.

As well as the slowly revealed nightmarish creatures, we get the forest itself intruding on the couple’s home with spreading black sludge, out of which grow sentient wooden tentacles that call to mind the spider tendrils of The Thing. Also, after a bit of gradual body horror, we also learn that no matter how good a film might have been so far, it can always be improved with the addition of a flaming scythe. Flaming scythes are cool.

Anyone familiar with stories of the fairies may guess the third act plot development, but it doesn’t play out in the way you would assume, and actually manages to inject some tension and uncertainty into what is happening, managing to keep you from guessing between reality and illusion until the very last moment.

Decent horror films are few and far between these days; great ones are even rarer, but you can most certainly count The Hallow amongst the latter. In spite of its familiar set up and character types, it feels fresh, original and, as is also depressingly infrequent theses days, genuinely scary.

THE HALLOW / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CORIN HARDY / SCREENPLAY: CORIN HARDY, FELIPE MARINO / STARRING: JOSEPH MAWLE, BOJANA NOVAKOVIC, MICHAEL MCELHATTON, MICHAEL SMILEY / RELEASE DATE: NOVEMBER 13TH

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating:
 


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