“THE HALLOW” (Stanley Film Festival Review)Movies/TV,News,Reviews Ken W. Hanley
Once in a while, the horror genre just needs a damn good monster movie. Thanks to trends in studio horror, fright fans are often saddled with gritty exploitation-adjacent genre films, minimalist ghost stories or psychologically taxing tales of psychopathia on a regular basis. So when a movie like THE HALLOW comes along, to call it refreshing would be an understatement, especially one as effectively scary and gorgeous as Corin Hardy’s creature feature.
Taking a page out of Guillermo del Toro’s playbook (in some ways more than others), Corin Hardy tackles mythology and fantasy rooted in his own culture in THE HALLOW, which makes the experience that much more passionate and visceral as it comes from inherently confident and well-read territory. Thanks to that territory, Hardy introduces some of the scariest on-screen SFX creations in recent memory, and offers much more than your standard fleeting jump-scare looks at them as well. In fact, Hardy’s whole vision plays with the expectations of the monster movie, offering enough satisfying scares and intensity to justify more intrusive and underhanded powers from these creatures as well as a genuinely beautiful environment in which our “survive the night” story takes place.
However, despite that THE HALLOW is a legitimate frightener, the film does sport some noticeable flaws, especially in the story department. The biggest issue with THE HALLOW is that the film, in essence, is missing a second act, positing 20 minutes of effective build-up and then over an hour of a climactic stand-off. That doesn’t mean the story necessarily suffers: in fact, the intense and subversive direction of the script offers plenty of terrifying twists and turns. Yet what it does mean is that THE HALLOW is a two-act film, and once the stakes are established, there’s little in the way of fluctuation as the film reveals more and more about these monsters.
Even with all flaws considered, THE HALLOW is twice as imaginative and thrice as impressive as most contemporary horror movie, let alone any contemporary monster movie. The main reason behind THE HALLOW’s effectiveness is Hardy, as the director understands the need for clever rules and justifications behind the mythos as much as the film needs character development and some seriously creepy creatures. Additionally, Hardy’s vision is given a colorful and eye-popping visual composition thanks to cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen, who weaves between a fantastic shot and gritty reality with the expert precision. Special note should also be given to SFX Wizards Stephen Coren, John Nolan, Gary Pollard and Earle Stuart Callender as well as sound designer Steve Fanagan, each of whom the film owes a great debt to in terms of its shocking scares.
Corin Hardy also cleverly cast the film, offering a lion’s share of great supporting actors in their time to shine. Bojana Novakovic is exceptional as the film’s female lead, throwing an immense physicality into the role as well as a believable and emotionally fueled sense of paranoia. Joseph Mawle is also phenomenal in the film, and his progression over the course of the film- physically and mentally- is a sight to behold, especially when posited against the SFX of the piece. And both Michael McElhatton and Michael Smiley have very small, yet wonderfully effective, roles in the film, and treat the material certainly above what some might within a monster movie.
Despite replacing the middle of the movie with an impressive and relentless 2-part third act, THE HALLOW excels beyond its mistakes to create one of the most visually engaging and starkly terrifying monster movies in recent memory. Emotional, eerie and occasionally experimental, THE HALLOW is a damn fine artistic statement from Hardy as a genre force to be reckoned with, and if he uses half the confidence that THE HALLOW displays for his remake of THE CROW, many fright fans will likely be Hardy converts. And THE HALLOW is definitely an audience picture as well, playing its crowd like a fiddle with its ongoing intensity; after all, seeing the film alone in a dark house might just be a little too familiar for less-steadfast horror hounds.