With the vast majority of Irish horror films are more likely to make you cringe than shiver – the biggest shock The Hallow delivers is that it’s genuinely good, says Peter Dunne.
Like loyal supporters of an uneven team, patriotic Irish horror fans haven’t had much cause for celebration over the years. The few decent fright flicks produced, such as Jon Wright’s Grabbers (which succeeded by going down the comedy route) or Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, proved to be moderately successful native tales that didn’t translate abroad. The Hallow, however, is a beast more mythological than the demons it contains – a local shocker that can compete on an international level.
Adam (Joseph Mawle), an unwelcome British conservationist, is sent to survey an ancient Irish forest for future construction. Accompanied by his wife, Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and their infant son, he moves into a house unfortunately situated right at the edge of said woods. In the grand tradition of idiotic interlopers who deserve what they get, the family ignore warnings from the adamantly superstitious locals urging them to leave things be and are soon happily marching through sacred ground when they’re not unscrewing those unsightly bars from the windows of their house. It’s no surprise when the family, who literally can’t see the woods for the trees, come under siege by the ancient demonic race they’ve trespassed against.
As that description attests, the screenplay from debut film director and co-writer Corin Hardy isn’t the most original but the familiar beats it hits are undeniably effective. Hardy knows his audience have come to be thrilled so doesn’t dawdle, providing likeable protagonists and just enough backstory before getting down to the real business of the monster attacks. Atmospheric filming and terrific, practical special effects ensure that when the creatures are finally revealed, they don’t disappoint although some questions may be raised about how beasts of that size managed to remain hidden.
A parade of monsters, baby snatchers and unhelpful neighbours all combine to give the family one hell of a night, and that’s before we even mention the zombie fungus. And that’s the whole family. While some movies have been known to add a scene of a child in peril in order to manipulate audience emotions, the poor baby in The Hallow is put through the wringer for the majority of the film as the prize the creatures seek. Although not graphic or overly violent this fairy tale is certainly not for kids. Successfully blending elements of ghost story, action film and body horror, the film is to be commended for playing the horrors straight instead of wimping out by adding comedy, which is sometimes a fall back for horror film makers who lack confidence in their creation.
It has to be said, however, that although it stands monstrous head and hunchbacked shoulders above most Irish horror films, the film still has a few problems that prevent it from being a top tier terror. The aforementioned over-familiar script provides scares but few surprises and once the attacks begin, it becomes a one-note battle. The supporting cast of familiar faces aren’t given much to work with so really can’t add much overall and an interesting idea about the fate of missing children is just thrown away. The terrific production values attest to the expertise of the crew involved so it’s even more of a shame that the script didn’t get one last polish.
Doubling as a calling card for Corin Hardy’s future as a director and a call out for a script collaborator, The Hallow is a nicely creepy tale for a November’s night watch. Once you don’t live beside a forest.
‘The Hallow’ is out on November 13, 2015
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