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The Hallow

The Hallow

Released 13 November 2015
Director Corin Hardy

Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Gary Lydon, Stuart Graham
Writer(s) Corin Hardy, Felipe Marino
Producer(s) Felipe Marino, Joe Neurauter
Origin United Kingdom
Running Time 97 minutes
Genre Horror
Rating 16

If you go down to the woods today...

Anyone who has attended their fair share of horror film festivals has learned to be cautious in the face of low-budget scary movies. Sure there are the occasional breakout masterpieces but for the most part they tend to be creaky affairs with mediocre acting and ropey special effects. In the case of The Hallow though I was cautiously optimistic; as the feature debut from acclaimed music video director Corin Hardy it was bound to look passably stylish and the warm reception it received at Sundance this year meant that it wasn’t going to be a total disaster. Plus, Michael Smiley was in the cast list. My interest was duly piqued.

The film takes place on the edge of an Irish forest that is soon to be sold off by the government. English conservationist Adam (Joseph Mawle), his wife Claire (Bojana Novakovic) and their infant son Finn have moved into a house on the border of the forest while Adam works on assessing the land. Needless to say, the superstitious locals (including the aforementioned Smiley and Michael McElhatton) do not take kindly to their presence and warn them of supernatural beings that inhabit the land. When Adam discovers a fungus that has the ability to control the mind of its host, strange things begin to happen and soon the family is fighting for their lives.

Admittedly, this is a rather tired conceit but Hardy does an excellent job of driving the narrative to unexpected places. Rather than loading the film with jump scares, he focuses on toe-curling body horror in a way that is undeniably stomach churning. Credit should be given to the effects team who do a wonderful job with the forest creatures - they have a palpable organic presence as they emerge from the woodland landscape. In fact The Hallow represents one of those rare occasions when a film doesn’t automatically become naff once the audience gets a glimpse of its monster.

Although the film’s low budget does manifest itself in some areas of the production (the sound design is pretty shoddy), the whole thing is surprisingly effective. This is nothing we haven’t seen before but the clever use of practical effects and the strong performances (especially from Novakovic) make The Hallow an unpleasantly pleasant surprise.

- Linda O’Brien