The Hallow marks the directorial debut of music video director Corin Hardy, and it’s certainly impressed a few people, enough of the right people that he’s currently attached to the long gestating reboot of The Crow franchise. Does he and his film deserve this acclaim? Hell yeah they do.
The films starts on a pretty cliched concept as a family of outsiders are sent to a small tight knit rural town. Adam Hitchens is a conservationist sent from London to the Irish countryside along with his wife and infant son. His assignment is to survey the forest for a logging company and to weed out trees infected with a strange disease. The locals make their displeasure known, but they are far from the biggest threat. The forest itself has its own guardians and soon the family is in a fight for their lives, especially that of their baby.
The Hallow plays into Irish folklore of forest spirits, child stealing faeries and changelings. It adds in monsters, the forest’s enforcers if you will. And a dose of body horror as the nasty black ooze the infected trees produce have some equally nasty effects on people. At first the threat seems to be quite human and I expected it to go into Straw Dogs territory but it soon makes it’s true nature known, even if it takes a while to really get started.
Thankfully, most of The Hallows’s effects are of the practical variety, rubber suits and anamatronics, so once the creatures show up, they look intimidating and scary. They’re kept in shadows and half glimpsed for much of the film, but when they finally take center stage they deliver. This is one film where the reveal of the creatures isn’t a letdown. And as a counterpoint to the creatures, the effects of the black substance the infected trees shed delivers a dose of body horror that will remind viewers of Splinter or even early Cronenberg. The two work together to create a sense of menace that will keep anyone on the edge of their seat.
Hardy and cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen manage to evoke a sense of rural beauty at the film’s start but then make those same locations seem terrifying as the film progresses. Indeed by the film’s end the forest evokes a slice of Hell more than anything Earthly. And it’s in this setting that the characters fight for their lives, and their humanity. Using bursts of light from a camera’s flash, (the light repels the creatures), to give brief glimpses into the darkness only intensify that effect. The creature design is well done, they are scary just to look at. And whether front and center to the camera, or half hidden in the dark they are a menacing presence and the final third of the film will have you on the edge of your seat.
The Hallow is an excellent film and hopefully a sign of great things to come from Corin.