Review: The Hallow (Sundance 2015)

The Hallow (Sundance 2015)
7 10

PLOT: A conservationist (Joseph Mawle) brings his wife (Bojana Novakovic) and infant son to Ireland, where he's been sent to survey an ancient forest that the locals think is haunted by a horde of monstrous faeries.

REVIEW: THE HALLOW's turned out to be one of the buzziest horror movies to play this year's midnight section at Sundance, with director Corin Hardy having already been snapped­ up to direct the long percolating reboot of THE CROW. Heck, even Edgar Wright showed up for the premiere to support his pal Hardy. His faith has been rewarded as THE HALLOW – while not as memorable as other Sundance breakouts like THE BABADOOK and THE GUEST - is rock solid.

Granted, the material is awfully familiar. Yet, as a piece of genre film­making done on a budget, THE HALLOW is slick and sophisticated, with the Irish location photography giving the film a lot of atmosphere. What's even cooler is how the murderous tree faeries are actually good, old fashioned animatronics. This looks about a thousand times cooler than it would have with CGI and it's nice to see some honest-­to-­god FX craftsmanship in a movie as that feels like a dying art.

GAME OF THRONES' Joseph Mawle plays the lead, being a disbelieving Londoner who mocks the locals for their superstitions (always a bad idea in a movie like this) and makes the questionable choice of carrying his infant child on his back while taking samples of icky forest goo, with his doomed pooch leading the way. Mawle's a very solid actor, giving the film some gravitas, particularly during the heavy second ­half once all the FX work and carnage comes into play. Bojana Novakovic (EDGE OF TOMORROW, DEVIL) is also solid as his wife, emerging as a heroine in her own right towards the end, even if character development for the both of them is a little thin. Outside of those two all the other parts are tiny, although the great Michael Smiley (DOWN TERRACE, KILL LIST) is memorable in a small role as a quirky cop who pays the family a visit. The only other substantial part is a local woodsman (Michael McElhatton) who's had his own trouble dealing with “The Hallow”.

Again, there's nothing especially surprising about THE HALLOW, with it almost playing out as a kind of zombie ­movie after a certain point. Yet, at a lean ninety minutes, Hardy keeps the tension running high and also gets a lot of mileage out of some icky gore effects and jump scares. THE HALLOW isn't the kind of genre film that reinvents the wheel, but it's classy horror and a breath of fresh air from the schlocky micro­budget PG­13 horror movies that crowd the theaters these days. Hopefully a distributor will pick this up and give it a nice theatrical release, as the photography and FX make it very worthy of a trip to the cinema. It's a nifty little sleeper and one to keep an eye out for.



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