Hallow, The (UK DVD)


The Hallow UK DVD SleeveStarring Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley

Directed by Corin Hardy

Distributed by Entertainment One

Life quickly takes a barreling detour downhill when couple Adam (Mawle) and Claire (Novakovic) relocate to rural Ireland with their newborn child in director Corin Hardy’s debut feature, The Hallow.

A conservationist by profession, Adam wastes no time setting about the local woods to have a poke at the scenery – only to come across what appears to be a particularly infectious and aggressive strain of Cordyceps fungus.

Yes – that’s the one that turns ants into “zombies” before they erupt into a spore-spewing mass of stalks.

The couple’s nearest neighbour, Colm (McElhatton), is none too happy about Adam’s interference in the area, and meanwhile, the local police officer (Smiley) offers his own tales of faeries and cryptic words of advice: ”Mr. Hitchens, this isn’t London… things here go bump in the night.”

And before you can say “The Last of Us,” Adam and Claire find their rustic homestead besieged by horrifying mutant creatures that are determined to get their hands on the Hitchens’ little bundle of joy.

It’s pertinent to just say it right out of the gate: The Hallow is a fantastic creature feature. Both Mawle and Novakovic carry the film very well indeed, and although their characters are somewhat thin in nature, their motivations never feel less than real – especially when it gets to the point of protecting their family unit at any and all cost.

Hardy does well to place the family in such isolation – far away from any realistic semblance of help (and with those nearby deferring to self-preservation over risking the attention of the woodland creatures) – avoiding much of the common logical failures that plague many a horror flick. The narrative itself is hardly surprising in its basic structure, but Hardy throws in a few curve balls along the way and winds up constructing a pretty effective drama with multiple layers to the horror. Without giving too much away, The Hallow offers up plenty of uncertainty during its final act – leaving you constantly questioning whether or not you can breathe that sigh of relief.

But where the film really stands out is in its visual presentation. Production design and editing are both stupendous with finely measured lighting balancing the oppressively dark atmosphere to just the right degree, creating a deep mood and sense of threat – not to mention offering up a number of toe-curlingly tense set pieces during the inhuman home invasion. The creature design, too, is excellent with plenty of “man (or woman) in a suit” action that’s sure to please any old-school monster movie fan. Marry that with some eminently memorable imagery (Adam taking to The Hallow’s lair armed with a flaming scythe is just so damned cool that you’re likely never to forget it), and you have a film that isn’t just a love letter to the genre, but a hugely proficient one at that.

But it isn’t all roses (or freaky fungus, for that matter) as Hardy’s attempt to mash together the natural and supernatural doesn’t quite work out as cleanly as one would hope. Why, for example, does someone like Adam not become extremely freaked out when he comes across a dead deer riddled with Cordyceps? Instead, he gets excited – explaining what the fungus is and does as he stares at it down a microscope rather than deciding that maybe he really ought to report this.

The motivations of the titular monsters are also somewhat up in the air. Given the involvement of an aggressive fungus here, it should come as no surprise that the forest’s denizens were indeed once human – but what drives them to steal children in particular? What facility allows them to act specifically like the baby-stealing faeries of lore when they’re being revealed here as a purely biological mutant?

It just isn’t very well balanced between the mythical aspect and the biological side, leaving a number of holes from which leaks are evident – and for some more picky viewers who aren’t content with the superlative monster mayhem and human pathos dished up, these holes are likely to mar the entire second half of the film.

Despite these narrative failings, The Hallow is nonetheless hands down the best creature feature of 2015. Dripping with atmosphere, fraught with tension and evocative of the sub-genre’s darker 80s heyday in its presentation, it also appears to have been the most sadly ignored genre release of the year. Here’s hoping it achieves the success it so richly deserves on home video.

On the special features front, Entertainment One dishes up a “behind-the-scenes” segment split into three parts: “The Story,” “The Influence,” and “Practical FX.” Each of these runs around two minutes long, formed primarily from interview snippets with director Hardy. This is backed up by a further short documentary, running around 50 minutes, chronicling the creation of the film and touching on all of the desired points of such a thing: the initial idea, pre-production, casting, on-set, sound design, editing, and effects alongside cast and crew interviews and a healthy focus on the creature design, performances, and presentation.

Next up is a selection of galleries including storyboards for one sequence, the original illustrations for the book of ancient folklore seen in the film, and various (cool as hell) creature and concept art – some revealing a few ideas (such as mutant fly-like beasts) that obviously didn’t make it beyond the first few drafts of Hardy’s story, which appears to have originally been titled The Good People. Finally, the trailer rounds it out.

Overall this is a very strong package for an exceptional horror film, one that more than capably backs up the real sense of love for the genre – and the project – which the feature itself evokes. All that’s missing to really make it shine is a commentary track.

Special Features:

  • Behind-the-Scenes featurettes
  • Surviving the Fairytale: Making The Hallow
  • Galleries
  • UK Theatrical Trailer

  • Film
  • Special Features
User Rating 2.94 (16 votes)


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