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The Hallow | Blu-ray Review

Corin Hardy The Hallow Blu-ray ReviewPreceding its premiere in the Midnight program at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival was incredibly positive buzz surrounding Corin Hardy’s Ireland set horror film, The Hallow. Cutting his teeth in music videos, much of the hype attached to his debut was due to his concurrently announced commitment to the long gestating The Crow reboot (a project he has since exited). Distributor IFC Midnight managed to rake in nearly fourteen grand in a November, 2015 limited theatrical release across eight screens, but despite some marvelous FX, the rather customary narrative deadens most of the thrills experienced by the creature feature design.

A simple, arguably derivative premise lays the eerie groundwork for what promises to be a memorable entry in a the struggling vein of modern backwoods horror narratives, though its bid to unify science with the supernatural is ultimately unsatisfactory, with a denouement that loses traction well before the predictable third act reaches an inevitable stride. Still, Hardy proves to be a devotee of vintage creature feature animations, utilizing tricks from a bygone era of special effects, acknowledging famous influences Stan Winston, Dick Smith and Ray Harryhausen in the end-credits. If only the splendid animatronics on hand were utilized to more profound effect in a less secondhand narrative.

Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle) moves his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and infant son to rural Ireland to survey the forest for a development company, much to the chagrin of the locals. Taking over a ramshackle old millhouse, the couple is in the midst of repairing the space, but the house literally oozes a putrid black muck. Likewise, Adam discovers a malevolent zombie fungus eating away at the corpse of a dead deer. The nearest local neighbors keep showing up to harass Clare about how important it is they speak with Adam, claiming he’s in danger. When something breaks into their home one night, they call the police, but no one seems surprised at their increasing difficulty. Something in those woods has no intention of letting the land be surveyed, much less taken.

Playing like Straw Dogs redone as backwoods horror story, the Hitchens are rather wanly drawn interlopers and this would have all felt more beneficial had our lead protagonists been more than mere conduits for the audience’s fears. Bojana Novakovic and Joseph Mawle are serviceable in that they’re both attractive and can scream quite convincingly, yet we never know anything about them other than that they’re smart, overly educated city folks looking forward to nestling in the simple bosom of rural heaven. And then Michael Smiley is basically wasted in a brief moment as local law enforcement. Much time and effort is spent on instilling the final family showdown with violent self-preservation, yet this drains the action of the painstaking dread Hardy’s built up, and it seems as if something is missing from the film’s mid-section, something that would make us care and thus keep us frightened. A rare gesture utilizing the concept of a changeling could have been used early on and for detrimental effect, but its placement instead feels like filler.

It turns out that The Hallow seems a lot like William Friedkin’s 1990 misfire, The Guardian, at least insofar as it how privileged familial units are pitted against personifications of monstrous folklore (but Hardy aims for much higher homage with notable moments that recall early Cronenberg with a bit of body horror thrown at its imperiled family, along with a nod to Winston’s work on Carpenter’s The Thing). While this all speaks to how well versed Hardy is, and the hallow creatures are convincingly creepy, this culminates in a disappointing thud, especially considering fans of this type of material should be very well versed with the formula.

Disc Review:

This transfer is presented in widescreen 2.35:1, and the film’s striking visual design is intact, enhanced by DP Martijn van Broekhuizen’s (who has also contributed to notable music videos) and Nick Emerson’s (Starred Up) editing. The sound design and pronounced score are also effective with the Master Audio 5.1. Scream Factory includes a number of special features, mostly involving the significant special effects.

Surviving the Fairytale – Making The Hallow:
This near hour long feature includes extensive behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the film, with cast and crew interview footage.

Behind the Scenes – The Story:
Hardy speaks of the story as a fairy tale and inspiration from classic Irish folklore in this two minute plus segment.

Behind the Scenes – Influence:
Hardy explains his cinematic influences and seeing King Kong as a child and his eventual discovery of Ray Harryhausen.

Behind the Scenes – Practical FX:
Hardy speaks for nearly two and half minutes on his inspirations regarding practical FX.

Director’s Storyboards:
A sample of scene storyboards from the film are included in this one hundred second segment.

The Book of Invasions:
A three minute montage of pages from The Book of Invasions.

Director’s Sketchbook:
This three minute plus feature includes sketches directly from Hardy’s sketchbook.

Creature Concepts:
This is aforty-four second montage of creature illustrations.

Final Review:

While The Hallow indeed captures a certain ambience lost in many glossy, effects laden contemporary horror films, it’s a monster movie without any teeth.

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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