Friday, November 6, 2015

Evil Fern Gully: Thin "Hallow" bolstered by goopy jolts and nifty f/x

The Hallow (2015)
92 min., not rated (equivalent of an R).

Imagine "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark" (either version) being infected with "The Fly" and "The Ruins" and the result might look a bit like "The Hallow." This grim backwoods-folklore fairy tale is familiar in its setup of a doomed family moving to an unfamiliar place with a local urban legend. Narratively speaking, there isn't much to it, but for a genre piece on a lean budget, it stands as a nifty future calling card for Irish monster-making artist-turned-director Corin Hardy (making his feature debut here but already picked to helm the upcoming remake of "The Crow"). The plot and where it is headed is predictable early on, but if one concentrates on where the film's strengths lie, it is resourceful and impressively accomplished in its level of mounting dread and technical craftsmanship.

On assignment to get rid of infected trees, conservationist Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle) relocates wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic), their infant son Finn, and pet dog Iggy from London to an isolated millhouse in Ireland. After the family lives there for a month, the locals don't take kindly to Adam trespassing through the forest that belongs to the mythic "hallow," particularly neighbor Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton) who knows from personal experience. While out walking through the nearby forest with his toddler on his back, Adam discovers a deer carcass covered in a black, gooey substance, which he brings home to research under a microscope. After another warning from Colm, the Hitchenses realize they should have listened, as the creatures in the forest are targeting their bundle of joy.

Written by director Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino, "The Hallow" might be a little too streamlined for its own good but it at least mixes up a creature-feature story with a little body and possession horror, while staying true to the name of cohesion. The Irish "hallow" mythos of baby-stealing tree faeries, changelings, and banshees also adheres to the cinematic rule of showing over telling with the illustrations of a Book of the Dead-ish tomb. Save for a police officer (Michael Smiley, "A Field in England") inspecting a broken window in Adam and Clare's baby's bedroom window and alerting the couple of the locals' superstitions in regards to the forest, there are appreciably no characters spouting off exposition willy-nilly. To read the rest of the review, go to Diabolique Magazine.

Grade: B - 

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