Title: the Hallow
Year Released: 2015
Director: Corin Hardy
Cast: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley
Find out why reviewer ANDREW GARVEY reckons The Hallow is the best horror film he’s seen in years…
A fairly tale darker than the weird black oozing stuff that causes the film’s protagonists Adam, Claire, baby Finn and their border collie Iggy so much trouble, The Hallow is the best horror film I’ve seen on the big screen since the first cinematic outing for the Woman in Black.
Director Corin Hardy’s (he also co-wrote the script) first full-length feature film is hugely impressive in its storytelling, its special effects and its ability to be genuinely unsettling, fantastical and believable all at the same time.
Conservationist Adam Hitchens brings his young family to an Irish island where his job is to survey the forest that the government is selling off to a private company. A timely little dig at the mania governments currently have for flogging off their assets to plug funding gaps, Adam’s presence upsets the suspicious locals. A lot.
But we quickly realise they aren’t motivated by their fear of outsiders who ‘aren’t from around here’ and probably aren’t about to go all ‘Hills Have Eyes’ on anyone. The locals have some very real reasons to be afraid as Adam tramples all over their ancient forest. They know there are things in the trees that don’t take kindly to human beings trespassing on their territory.
As a policeman, called out by Adam and Claire after the mysterious late night breaking of a window in the upstairs of their dilapidated cottage explains, “this isn’t London. Things here go bump in the night.”
And they do.
Originally pitched as ‘Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth’, mixing in a relationship drama with a large dose of Irish folklore about baby-stealing banshees and throwing in some gruesome body horror and clear tributes to classic monster movies, Hardy and co-writer Felipe Marino’s script puts Adam and Claire through some brutal scenes as the creatures of the Hallow lay siege to their home.
The story, framed within in its own fantasy-horror setting, makes perfect sense. You know that part of a horror film where you start asking yourself ‘why don’t these idiots just run away?’ But they never do? Here, they try to run about a minute after I started thinking that. And it’s a tribute to how well everything works that I genuinely didn’t know whether baby Finn was going to die or not. Very few genre films manage that level of suspense when involving young children.
The special effects deserve a mention, too. Largely practical, then touched up with CGI, they (mostly) work extremely well. Filmed entirely on location in Ireland, Hardy and cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen make a villain of not just the creatures and the folklore surrounding them but the countryside itself.
With a limited cast and only four significant speaking roles – Adam, Claire, aggrieved neighbour Colm Donnelly and the exposition-spouting policeman – we spend a lot of time with Adam and Claire. So it’s lucky they both put on such strong performances.
Partially Deaf English actor Mawle (he lost around 70% of his hearing to a virus as a teenager and uses lip reading when acting) is probably best known for roles in Game of Thrones (as Benjen Stark) and Ripper Street (Detective Inspector Jedediah Shine) but has also played Jesus Christ and the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, is convincing as Adam. His wife Claire is convincingly played by Bojana Novakovic, a Serbian-born Australian with a flawless accent.
A British-Irish co-production, the Hallow opened last year’s Manchester’s Grimmfest (a highly recommended annual festival of horror and science fiction films) before receiving a wider UK cinema release last November. It’s currently available on DVD, at iTunes and, for UK Amazon Prime customers, is available to stream as part of your subscription.
Title: the Hallow