November 23, 2015 by Liza Lou
The last time I reviewed a British horror the result was a fair one considering I had a long run of being bored to tears by them. Pushed on by this I decided to give another a go in the form of The Hallow and apart from knowing it was British (it’s actually a British/Irish co-production) I went in totally blind having heard nothing and without seeing trailers.
The opening credits ran over several shots of woodland which for me was eerie from the off. When I was little I once got lost in the woods near my home and I remember being terrified of what may have been lurking in those trees. That fear, isn’t one that I have brought with me into adulthood but there must be some remnants there because by the beginning of the first scene I was rigid in my seat.
The plot follows a conservationist who has moved himself and his family into a run down mill house on the edge of said woodland. He is set on doing his job while his wife tries to settle into her new home with their baby. Various locals try to warn him about folklore and tales of children being stolen by the creatures who lurk there but he ignores this and carries on regardless.
Adam Hitchens (the conservationist) is played by Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones) and a cracking job he does too. It takes a while for his intensity to really shine through but that’s not a negative, the way he acts this character follows the plot with perfection. I don’t want to give too much away but (as subtle as they are) Mawle plays through some of the best body morphing scenes I have ever seen and I’ve read The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. It’s also during those final scenes that Bojana Novakovic (Devil*) as his wife Claire stole my heart. She managed to make me shed a tear which is bloody hard when I am watching a horror film but I believed her with every ounce of my body.
The first act is the builder and shows director Corin Hardy‘s eye for detail. The shots are absolutely beautiful in a real location that gives the first half hour an air of serenity. It’s the calm before the storm and I love this kind of atmospheric climb. Everything is so lovely that even close up shots of a decaying deer are mesmerizing but there is always that hint that something rotten is just around the corner.
That hint deepens as the film goes into its second act and it’s worth pointing out that’s it is usually here where I mentally switch off because of lost pace. Not with this one though. no Siree. That peaceful lull became a creepy disorientation as everything suddenly sped up and became noisy. There are a couple of jump scares but they really are minor, instead I felt twitchy and found my hands clenched and in my mouth. With a lot happening but still no explanation the film charges itself for its conclusion. It gets darker both in plot and literally and it’s great!
That directional eye for detail I mentioned earlier doesn’t disappear either. If anything, the shots become more stylized towards the ending of the film. When I was in my teens I had a thing about 50’s and 60’s B movies and I saw elements of this but not once did The Hallow feel dated. Instead it had that lure of a time gone by whilst keeping modern and more than once freaked me out. I think I am specifically referring to that increase of terror that the old films did so well. With this film we know someone or something scary is out there and the presence of this never really falters. It isn’t until half way through that we are given a close enough look at what that is though and even then it’s for a split second. Its teasers like this that make the stuff happening on-screen more frightening.
And then we get to the third act and conclusion and the suspense doesn’t leave until the very last moment. With two fairly major things happening at the same time they work brilliantly together to allow enough ambiguity to make you think. It is true that all of the real ‘action’ happens in this last portion but I don’t think that The Hallow is the sort of film that needs to rely on quick scares. Everything is subtle and slow or there to disorientate and i like that. Thumbs up! I’d like to see a second and from where this film left me I think there’s plenty of scope for it!
*see my review of Devil HERE