Arriving in a new town can be overwhelming, especially when the locals don’t want you there. This kind of tension is often found in horror movies, serving as a way for audiences to become emotionally invested in the characters. Jaws used this to great effect, positing Sheriff Brody as the outsider whose concerns about shark attacks conflict with the Mayor of Amity’s desire to squelch any bad publicity in favor of promoting tourism.
The Hallow takes the opposite approach. Conservationist Adam Hitchens, his wife Claire, and their baby Finn moved to a small town in rural Ireland a month ago and the residents haven’t exactly welcomed them with open arms. Adam is seen as a threat to the local forests, particularly because the residents of the area are terrified of The Hallow, evil creatures they insist dwell within the woods. But Adam is a scientist and doesn’t take their concerns seriously; he just attributes the animosity to a combination of superstition and ignorance.
Yet after being attacked by The Hallow, Claire assures Adam that they’ve both seen the same thing. “The Hallow… it’s real.” It’s a neat twist on the tired trope of protagonists denying the existence of the otherworldly despite all evidence to the contrary.
Director Corin Hardy also chose wisely in utilizing real-life environmental controversy as the basis of the struggle in The Hallow. The creatures themselves are grotesquely, gorgeously realized and brought to life through impressive practical effects instead of CGI. The film also looks beautiful, capturing the grandeur and mystery of an old forest and emphasizing warm tones and deep shadows to create an unearthly feel. Besides, what other movie are you going to see this year where someone uses a flaming scythe for a weapon?
Despite these distinctive and original touches, however, The Hallow borrows too many of its ideas from other movies and ends up feeling more like a mashup than a breath of fresh air.
Every horror film, however unconsciously, borrows something from the films that came before, but when there is too much homage and not enough compelling originality, this becomes a problem, and this is what hampers The Hallow. Establishing shots of a car driving through the wide open countryside? Check. Someone putting their dislocated or broken limbs back in place and screaming? Check. Power outages and car trouble in the woods? Check. And just once, I’d like to see movie characters express genuine grief when their beloved pet dies trying to protect them. If your dog died in an attempt to save your life, wouldn’t you shed at least one tear?
Granted, The Hallow takes its cues from some pretty fantastic films and directors. There are nods to Zombi 2, The Shining, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark, Wake Wood, and Splinter. Additionally, I think the shift from folk horror to siege film is an inspired touch. It just wasn’t enough for me to love The Hallow.