You've probably never seen fairies like these. The Hallow are monsters, horrible creatures that live in the dark, and not at all like the romanticized Fae or Fair Folk you read about as a kid (or an adult if you're into Karen Marie Moning).
Adam and his family have moved from London to a remote Irish village, where Adam works as a conservationist. Adam's been warned repeatedly not to go into the forest, but he as to for his work. What Adam fails to understand is the forest belong to the Hallow, and every time Adam steps foot in there he's trespassing. Adam and his family are told, in no uncertain terms, that if they trespass against the Hallow, the Hallow will return in kind.
The Hallow starts off great: beautiful setting, great atmosphere, good build-up of tension. But it doesn't last. The third act is largely a chase sequence, and very little story development takes place in the last half of the film. This is a problem only because the first half of the movie is devoted to creating a rich world of mystery and danger.
Director Corin Hardy's influences can be read on-screen. He loves creature features and body horror, and both are present in abundance in his film. The Hallow are monstrous, horrible nightmare creatures that prowl about the woods. And when Adam is infected by the Hallow, he begins to turn. Scratches and puncture wounds sprout roots, and his voice drops an octave become more guttural and animalistic.
All this is great stuff, but the Hallow's other influences, like Alien and The Thing (isolated, siege-type movies) are less well developed. I think part of the issue is pacing. The slow, steady build-up gives way to an intense attack and chase sequence that goes on for too long. Painstaking and deliberate camerawork gives way to jump scares and shakycam. Indeed, Adam and his family are isolated, living in an old house in the middle of nowhere, and they are besieged by the Hallow, but an obvious misdirect and a couple of logic problems defuse the tension. Moreover, when Adam and Claire split up, the film splits in two, and the parallel narratives don't really compliment each other.
The Hallow was billed as one of the scariest movies at the festival, which might have set the bar a little too high. It's certainly creepy, but the anxiety and suspense are supplanted by sheer adrenaline. Some people like that, for sure, but it's a jarring turn of events in a movie that's been banking on atmosphere. Stranger still are the film's final moments, in which Adam's struggles are rendered pointless and the audience is made to jump one last time—an amateur move that manages to devalue a lot of the hard work that went into making the film.
The Hallow was preceded by O Negative, a short film about a man who cares for his addict girlfriend. As the writer-director Steven McCarthy explains, O Negative was made on a dare, but the end result doesn't look anything like you'd expect. It's a slow and quiet ride, thoughtful in its approach.
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