THE HALLOW (2015) – Review

2015 has been one of the best years for horror in recent memory – between It Follows, Goodnight Mommy, Crimson Peak, and now THE HALLOW.

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Premiering alongside the much-anticipated The Witch at the 2015 Park City at Midnight, this film has generated a ton of buzz for several reasons – the director’s involvement in The Crow remake and the use of almost entirely practical effects being the most notable of them. While I will say that my expectations were high and were not met head-on, this film is nonetheless one of the best creature-features of the past ten years.

We’ve seen the plot before – urban family moves to rural area and pisses off something in the woods. Director Corin Hardy embraces the simplicity of his story and tells it with passion. He cares about each element – his characters, his monsters, his horror – so much that the film becomes earnest and fully realized through his intensity alone. Simple it may be, but The Hallow is full of hellish energy and intensity, anchored by two talented actors who convince you that they’re worth investing in.

The Hallow Movie Picture (2)

But the best part of this film is its creatures and the evil that they commit. Corin Hardy is a visual artist, and an avid horror fan, which comes through beautifully. The design is both aesthetically fascinating and disturbing. Any film featuring a killer fungus is a sure winner, too. It’s a lot of fun to see Irish folklore brought to life and milked for all the nasty stuff it contains. These ‘fairies’ are not Tinkerbell – but they aren’t purely abject, either, because Hardy gives them personality, and their design feels organic. To have them played by human beings, not computers, is also fabulous.

The scenes of horror are masterful for this reason. There’s both creature terror and classic body horror, with things invading and transforming in hideous ways. Hardy orchestrates the scary moments very well – the scene where everything kicks into high gear is just awesome, and the scene in the attic, good lord. And the gross-out effects aren’t only gross. There’s emotion behind the scares, which makes them resonate.

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Unfortunately, these elements also end up dragging the film down by its final act. I’ve only seen one creature feature that maintains the terror all the way through – that’s Alien – because it’s immensely difficult to keep something scary once you’ve seen it and know it can be defeated. The Hallow falls into this trap, losing its power of shock and showing too much. This isn’t all bad, of course – when the horror stops, the action begins, and the film maintains its entertainment value, just entering a different type of fun. I would have preferred the horror myself, but the genre switch does not sacrifice the film’s heart. I’ll leave it at that to avoid spoilers.

So, it is flawed, and doesn’t reach the level of terror that other recent offerings maintain. But it’s a terrific ride in its own right. This is a solidly effective and beautifully designed modern creature feature.

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