The Hallow (2015)
★ / ★★★★
Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare (Bojana Novakovic), along with their infant son, moved from the city to a remote Irish town. A month into their residence, the couple begins to experience strange phenomena in and around the house. Initially, they believe these are merely pranks, ways to scare them off, because their neighbors have been less than subtle in expressing how they feel about the couple moving into the house by the forest. After all, the town is highly superstitious, convinced that the forest and everything around it belongs to the Hallow.
“The Hallow,” also known as “The Woods,” fails as a horror film because the screenwriters, Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino, neglect to provide the required exposition in order to get everybody on the same page. As a result, those who are not familiar with Irish folklores are likely to end up very confused, wondering exactly the title means as increasingly chaotic events unfold. Imagine being dropped in the middle of a shootout of an action film and you try to make sense of the motivations of those involved. Since there is no context, what reason do we have to invest in the story and its characters?
About two-thirds of the scenes take place as night. Just about everything is hidden in the shadows—even when we are indoors. Due to its monotonous approach, one gets the impression that the environment is artificial. Thus, when the creatures from the woods appear, they are not particularly scary. Instead, they look like people wearing monster suits and makeup, making grunting and screeching noises. I grew bored by the chases.
Plenty of basic questions remain unanswered. There is an unfriendly neighbor who drops off a book in order to provide the couple an idea about what they are up against. What exactly is in the book? Adam claims it is merely a book of fairytales and it is dismissed almost immediately. The book ought to have been used as a tool to get the audience on the same page—literally. What is a Changeling? I knew the answer from the moment the name is mentioned, but what about those who have no prior exposure to the word? Yet another question: Why wait until Adam and Clare have been living in the house before forcing them to leave? Why not attack them a week into their residency?
The so-called scares are most pedestrian. Prior to the goblin-like creatures revealing how they look like to the trespassers, we hear snarling from the shadows in the woods, off-screen destruction of a room, and black sludge dripping from various surfaces. These are tolerable because there is at least a sense of rising action. But after the initial full-on attack, we are subjected to many screeching, screaming, and nonsensical violence. The screenplay is so uninspired, eventually the couple are pitted against one another.
Directed by Corin Hardy, “The Hallow” shows some promise during its first fifteen to twenty minutes but it runs out of creativity as the story goes on. In addition, there is a lack of energy in how scares are executed so we feel every second that trickles by during its unrelentingly slow pacing. Irish folklores are so interesting and so out there at times, but this terrible film makes a bore out of them.