I wanted so much to like this movie. I liked the creepiness, the weirdness, the fact that it knows you can't radiocarbon date metal. But this slow-burning tale of otherworldly terror is, in essence, too slow.
Two years after their mother's death, Rachel and her sister Anna return home to make peace with the past. When they arrive, their father is missing and the house is a mess. Rachel's ex-boyfriend, Matt, is also returning home, and his walk through town is disquieting. The people he sees behave strangely, and there are these weird jugs of black goo everywhere.
As Rachel and Matt explore for answers, Anna rediscovers the strange metal device that arrived at the house the same day their familial bliss was shattered two years ago. A presence tied to the device stalks Rachel through her old home, and it promises to give her the answers she seeks if she'll return the favour in kind.
The Hollow One has great atmosphere. A sense of oppressive dread permeates the film, and there's a quiet intensity built into the deserted houses. The surviving townsfolk are unsettling, and the Hollow One, when it appears is weird in a way that's rarely seen. But as good as all this is, its undercut by the film's slow pace.
The movie's real strengths, which don't fade over time, are in its creature design, sound design, and mythology. The Hollow One looks cool, a kind of weird and wispy mix of technology and magic given vaguely human form, and when he speaks is voice comes from across a great expanse of time and space, a crackling resonance you feel in your bones. Giving life to this presence is a whole mythology, only part of which is explained in the film. It's easy to read Hellraiser and Prince of Darkness into The Hollow One, but the story here stands on its own.
Writer-director Hendrickson has a strong background in video games, and this goes some way in explaining The Hollow One's pacing. In a horror game, pacing is mediated through action sequences. In Hendrickson's movie little happens to either increase or diffuse tension, and the film's climax is more a matter of course than a natural progression of events.
Prince of Darkness is one of my favorite movies, and I love the idea of a force or presence on Earth that is outside our time or experience. I just wish The Hollow One had more to offer in terms of scares and suspense. I can applaud Hendrickson's achievement, but the script could have used another pass.
The Hollow One was preceded by Heir. Usually, the shorts are thematically linked with the features, but in this case the point of comparison is creature effects. Heir might be a tale of child abuse or might be a metaphor for social fears and societal pressures—according to what writer-director Richard Powell told the TADFF audience, it's the latter. According to the film's tagline and content, it's the former.
Heir's strength's lie in its gore effects and Bill Oberst Jr.'s performance. The film is well made for sure, but this reviewer found the story to be upsetting and distasteful, and not in a good way.
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