Screened at the Edinburgh International Film Festival
Directed by Corin Hardy
Starring Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael Smiley, Michael McElhatton
A couple with a young baby move into an isolated farmhouse only to have to contend with mythological forces intent on taking their child…
Previously blandly titled The Woods, The Hallow is a nicely done throwback horror that appears to have time warped from the 1980s, especially in the traditional use of animatronics and the limited appearances from the threatening creatures lurking among the trees. There’s an environmental and political message of sorts buried in The Hallow as scientist Adam, wife Clare, and baby Finn relocate to the middle of nowhere so he can assess the forests for potential privatisation (notions established through the use of radio reports near the beginning). It gets lost as the horror kicks off, but it is definitely there.
The Hallow seems to want to play both with scientific ideas—the first weirdness Adam encounters is a ‘zombie fungus’ that destroys hosts from the inside out—and mythology. Nearby farmer Colm (Game of Thrones’ Michael McElhatton; Mawle also appeared on that show) warns the family off, claiming to have lost his daughter to the evil faerie folk who inhabit the woods.
Disturbing the woods results in an epic night-time siege of the household in which the parents and the ‘Hallow’ battle for baby Finn. Thrown into the mix are scenes reminiscent of classic hand-made horrors like The Evil Dead, with a dose of Alien and some body horror morphing for Adam that recalls David Cronenberg’s The Fly. It’s noisy and vibrant, but director Corin Hardy keeps things together, going old school with many of his effects. The idea of withholding the creatures works so well that the illusion is perhaps a little dispelled when we see a little too much of them towards the climax.
Like the great horrors of the 1980s, The Hallow puts professional adults in jeopardy (not teens, as has been a strong trend since the 1990s and Scream), and makes great use of animatronics and practical effects (with digital enhancements) instead of wearying amounts of weightless, unconvincing CGI. This is to be applauded, and is beginning to look like a trend with such films as The Babadook, The Conjuring and even It Follows proving there is life yet in intelligent horror.
Verdict: Good, solid, traditional horror in the 1980s vein, 6/10
Brian J. Robb
For further details visit Edinburgh International Film Festival
Released nationwide in the UK in November 2015