In what has been a somewhat unremarkable year for the horror genre thus far (minus It Follows), Corin Hardy’s Irish flick The Hallow sadly refuses to buck the trend, despite some initial potential.
Writer-director Hardy centres The Hallow in a remote rural Irish millhouse where newly moved in tree-surgeon Adam (Joseph Mawle) and his family come under attack by creatures living in the woods.
There’s a noticeable ambition in Hardy’s narrative for The Hallow which straddles several genre areas including: a home invasion angle, cat and mouse (or monster and human) chases, and a possession storyline. Mixing these already common horror tropes with Celtic folklore adds a slight dash of originality to the proceedings – but to be honest, the Celtic roots are given about as much focus as those in 1993’s Leprechaun – in other words, very little.
These creatures, dubbed the Hallows, initially are presented in small snippets with DoP Martijn Van Broekhuizen capturing them in shadowed light – emphasising the enigmatic creepiness in the darkened woodland setting. A scene which sees Adam uses camera flashes to brighten a darkened forest area unveils an unsettling short glimpse at one of the creatures that lingers. As events progress these enigmatic creatures are subject to more and more exposure until they are seen in full view at around the half-way point – and in doing so lose their original mystery and horror, turning into generic genre monsters.
Hardy has a competent eye for a horror set piece and it’s impressive to observe that this is his first feature when it feels like he has been working in the genre for a while. There are some strong moments of tense horror – particularly those early-on that put Adam’s baby in peril – an attack on his car in the middle of the woods is a particular high point. The home-invasion scenes are crafted with an eerie suspense and make full use of the evocatively spooky rural setting and vintage millhouse.
Whilst some are bound to appreciate it, The Hallow lost my engagement when the possession angle is drafted in and the feature turns into an elongated forest chase. There isn’t enough deviation from the standard possession/infection tropes to feel fresh and Hardy’s narrative begins to depend too highly on the previously successful baby-in-peril angle – which has now well and truly lost all its merit.
The Hallow is initially an atmospheric and serviceable slice of genre entertainment, but it disappointingly topples under the weight of its many narrative angles, falling into tedious conventionality. Perhaps sticking with the home-invasion or pursuit route and building up the fear surrounding its antagonist creatures more might have made this more worthwhile.
Stars: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic & Michael Smiley