Both interesting and flawed, The Hallow is the latest independent horror movie directed and co-written by Corin Hardy, who makes his feature debut here. The film takes place at a remote house within an Irish woodland settlement, which is homed to a couple with a young baby, and the father is surveying the forest for a development project. Despite warnings from the local residents, he finds a mysterious black oily substance, which turns out to be a cordyceps-like parasite, and from that, hordes of demonic creatures that prey upon the lost arise. Alone and deep within the darkness, the couple must now fight back to protect their son against the relentless attacks by these ancient forces.
For a debut feature, what Hardy has ended up with is an uneven eco-themed horror flick. One of the aspects where the film succeeds is in its realisation of the monsters; the effects are well executed, and the design and mannerisms are creepily eerie and unnerving. However, the film is at its strongest when it doesn’t have to deal with creatures, but instead deals more with its brooding sense of menace and despair. That is also embodied well in the performances, with Joseph Mawle buying into the ordeal that his character goes through, while Bojana Novakovic buys into the danger of their situation.
The rest of the small cast don’t get that much to do, with Michael Smiley included only to spout Basil-exposition in a thankless cameo. The film falters when it attempts to reconcile its fantasy narrative of bad fairies with the edgy, home invasion sequences, which obviously owes a debt to Straw Dogs. At one point it reaches a level of shrieking hysteria during the film’s middle section, but the film finds a hard job in maintaining that momentum towards the end.
However, even though the film as a whole doesn’t quite hang together, there are still individual elements and set pieces that are genuinely arresting, including the night-time sequence set by a creepy lake, which has an atmosphere that is altogether impressive, spine-chilling and weird all at the same time. The film’s concepts and locales pay homage to past horror movies and thrillers, such as Deliverance, with its eco themes and the devils of the woodland obviously inspired by The Evil Dead.
So in the end, The Hallow is a flawed, yet interesting, film that benefits from solid performances, impressive creature effects and moments of genuine intrigue and atmosphere. Not everything in the film comes together and it is ultimately rough around the edges, but because of how strong some the individual elements are, this film does promise big things for Corin Hardy’s future.
THE HALLOW / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: CORIN HARDY / SCREENPLAY: CORIN HARDY, FELIPE MARINO / STARRING: JOSEPH MAWLE, BOJANA NOVAKOVIC, MICHAEL MCELHATTON, MICHAEL SMILEY / RELEASE DATE: 21ST MARCH