This year, I was granted access to the Fantastic Fest online “screening room”. It was pretty sweet to be recognized as the heavyweight genre film blogger that I am. One of the available films was an Irish film called, A Dark Song. The description sounded pretty good so I watched a completely different Irish movie! (TWIST!) (i didn’t actually get a chance to see A Dark Song. i’m a busy guy, ok?) The Hallow had been in my Netflix queue for a very long time. The description sounded ok and the Netflix algorithm thought I’d like it, so I put it in there. And now I’ve seen it. And now I’m writing about it. You’re welcome.
Adam and Claire and their baby move into an old house in a forested area outside of a small Irish village. Adam is some kind of botanist hired by a logging corporation to assess the forest (or something). The locals aren’t too keen on this guy holding the fate of their countryside in his hands and resent him for it. The couple incurs even more animosity when they ignore and / or go against local customs. Like, keeping iron bars over the windows to keep out the mythical creatures that live in the forest. The modern, skeptical city-folk believe these superstitions are silly. Until… Adam finds a mysterious micro-organism on a dead animal and really strange things start happening. They’re definitely convinced soon enough when those strange things turn life-threatening!
The Hallow has a lot going for it. It has a rich, earth-tone color palette that complements its setting perfectly. The lush forest shots manage to be comforting and foreboding simultaneously. On the one hand, Adam is more than comfortable with trees and forests as a forest…ologist(?). On the other, these particular woods are unfamiliar and very understandably the source of some dark regional folklore. The film also features some great performances from the leads. Their relationship is tested as their traumas compound and at one point they have a difference of opinion on a supremely important issue. The actors portray that desperation and terror expertly. (and there’s a bit part played by Kill List’s Michael Smiley!) Overall, The Hallow is a better than average genre film. But (you knew that was coming, right?), it’s not perfect. Obviously, I don’t expect perfection from any film, but I am critiquing here. There are some extremely creepy scenes and some harrowing moments, but some of those were framed in such a baffling way that it took away from the experience a bit. The “mysterious micro-organism” that I mentioned above is used as a device to up the stakes and add urgency to the story, but it ends up raising too many questions. Are the “mythical creatures” (again – see above) just humans that have been infected with this thing? Are they like zombies? If so, how does that give them supernatural abilities? It’s not a deal-breaker but those types of logistical / logical questions may slightly irk some viewers. (viewers like me, who are too literal) Keep in mind that I still enjoyed The Hallow quite a bit. (i don’t want this to come off as a negative review!) It’s strengths certainly make up for its weaknesses.
The Final Cut: Despite some iffy science, there are some great moments of anxiety and fear in The Hallow. The lush yet oppressive photography and great performances make this one to check out.