On July 15th, 9:35 pm, The Hallow premiered for the first time ever in Canada. Written and directed by Corin Hardy, this Irish production basically reinforces all horror movie clichés in a beautifully suspenseful manner. Welcome to Paranormal Activity, with better cinematography and an Irish twist. However, just to set the mood, Colum Eastwood’s short film The Morrigan was screened first. In short, this picture is just one’s standard demon possession narration, stunningly filmed off the dramatically grey Irish coast. Thank God that the dialogue is not too important in a 16-minute long screening, because nothing could be understood through the actors’ incredibly heavy Irish accents. This really helped build up anticipation for The Hallow, with the haunting question of “will the Hallow have subtitles?” running over and over through viewers’ minds. Luckily, the main protagonists from The Hallow have charming, yet fully comprehendible, British accents.
So the movie starts off with a British couple moving with their infant into a lovely Irish cottage. And what a cottage it is – with quaint interior brick walls and airily high ceilings, it could make for any real estate agent’s paradise. Unfortunately (yet predictably), this delightful new home is located within the confines of a luscious, yet awfully dangerous, forest. The moment that the couple from London (spoiler alert! just kidding, nothing that you weren’t expecting here) gets haunted by forest spirits, you would think that these Irish sprites are simply holding a clandestine pact with the IRA. But no, these creatures, eerily referred to as the hallow by locals, are just incredibly territorial overgrown gremlins who shun science, kidnap babies and only try to solve their personal issues by terrorizing local humans. Honestly, the hallow just come off as annoying beasts in terrible need of psycho-therapy.
Originally, this movie really made me think of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, a novel involving the personification of various religious and mythological characters who live off of human belief. I mean, actor Joseph Mawle really does looks like a stoned Neil Gaiman… Besides, a movie that theoretically “tackles mythology and fantasy rooted in his [Corin Hardy] own culture” suggests an in-depth exploration, and potential distortion, of said Irish mythology. Alas, the would-be Irish legend of the hallow is barely developed in the movie and I am not even sure that the myth actually exists. I guess I was personally just really looking forward to uncovering a modern take on the incredibly rich Irish folklore so my expectations were quite different from what the movie actually had to offer. And understandably, the people of Ireland must probably feel way over-saturated in their own mythology, so The Hallow may offer the latter quite a refreshing respite.
However, despite certain – what I would qualify as – shortcomings, this is a horror movie, after all. And The Hallow caters to its genre splendidly. Under-developed secondary characters – including cold and superstitious townsfolk who profess dire warnings without actually helping the family out – help enhance the panicked young family’s sense of isolation. Furthermore, The Hallow simply oozes suspense – one could feel tension radiating throughout the screening room during the entire projection. It also feels darkly endearing to witness a couple’s incredibly traumatic struggle to save their newly blooming family. Moreover, the actual acting was pretty solid – especially on the gurgling little baby’s part. The filming was conjointly masterful; besides giving viewers luscious panoramas of the mossy green forest, the camera did some pretty interesting close-ups on the protagonists’ eyes, to increase an overall sense of terror and pain.
Finally, ending on both a plot twist and a semi-tragedy, the movie left viewers both melancholic and satisfied. Unluckily, those too impatient to watch the credits until the very end missed out on quite a few chilling surprises… Although blatantly lacking originality, this movie makes for a gripping roller coaster with its unnaturally quiet moments interrupted by hair-raisings pop-ups and unsettling shockers.
Rating: ** 1/2
The Hallow played as part of Fantasia. Click HERE for tickets.