The Irish outback provides a phantasmagorical backdrop for new horror-fantasy The Hallow.
If you don’t know what a ‘hallow’ is don’t be embarrassed. Neither did I. The film was originally called ‘The Woods.’ And it is to the woods, known locally as ‘the Hallow,’ that tree-conservationist Adam (Joseph Mawle) spends most of his time having relocated, along with his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and baby Finn, to a remote part of Ireland.
Their neighbours are hostile, consumed with superstition and fear and overprotective of their forest. They claim Hallow folk live there. Undaunted, Adam investigates, after all he wants the same thing that his neighbours do, to save the forest.
The Hallow is beautiful to look at. An enchanting and mystical forest takes up much screen time. The creatures that live there are fairly original in design, creepy and nothing like anything you’ve seen in the last twenty years. While this is Corin Hardy’s debut feature it owes a lot to his passion and skill for SFX. He’s been making monster movies and stop animation films since he was twelve. And this is his strength in the movie.
The feral creatures of the Hallow are fascinating and the main focus of the film but why they want to hurt Adam and his family remains unclear. Adam is just one man alone and he is trying to investigate the reasons the forest is dying. The neighbours are paranoid, as a warning, tell the family of their own tragedies experienced at the whim of the Hallow creatures. It seems that Hallow folk are easily offended, tormenting the very people who are trying to protect them. Quite what the Hallow creatures are also remains a mystery and this leaves something of a hole at the centre of the drama.
The relationship between Adam and Clare is questionable. A mother’s love overcomes a father’s and the baby seems to be merely a pawn in the struggle for dominance. I’m left wondering whether they really care about their baby. In a scene where Adam tells his wife to look at the baby because he’s convinced it’s a changeling, she doesn’t take a peek for a very long time. Instead she runs away from her crazed husband, much like Wendy running from Jack in The Shining.
The story might be inconsistent but the film is still a sensational watch. It’s been descried as Pan’s Labyrinth meets Straw Dogs. It plays with many sub-genres of horror, psychological, supernatural, body and fantasy horror, which makes it a difficult film to categorise. But this doesn’t really matter because the monsters are interesting enough. The way they move, sound and change is utterly captivating.
The Hallow is a beautiful film with a clear sense of style but at times it can feel like an overly long music video with a weak narrative. Having said that, it is an impressive debut and I’ll be sure to look out for Corin Hardy’s next movie, especially if it is the rumoured reboot of The Crow. I’d also welcome a sequel to The Hallow, particularly if the origins of the creatures were revisited. I love a good monster.