“The Hallow” began its theatrical run in Houston at Alamo Drafthouse Vintage Park today.
Adam (Joseph Mawle), Clare (Bojana Novakovic), and their infant son Finn move out into the country for Adam’s work as a conservationist. The small Irish town they’re now apart of frowns on Adam consistently going out into the forest since they’re convinced that’s where “The Hallow” resides. Adam begins investigating a mysterious black goo that he finds in the woods as the superstitious town begins lashing out at the new “tree doctor.” As if the zombie fungus wasn’t enough, hellish and horrifying creatures from within the woods suddenly take a liking to Finn.
“The Hallow” is the debut of writer/director Corin Hardy (who is also currently in line to direct that troubled reboot of “The Crow” struggling to get off the ground). For a first time filmmaker, Hardy establishes a deliciously thick atmosphere like a professional. The gloomy, nefarious atmosphere is the film’s most valuable asset and something that seems to be lifted directly from “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark.”
It becomes apparent that Joseph Mawle was cast as the male lead solely for his haunting screaming ability. Adam has one hell of a tortuous evolution throughout the events of “The Hallow.” Everyone seems to be against him and his family in almost a “The Wicker Man” kind of way. Adam has the desire to keep his family safe, but also to protect his son at all costs. His motives are contorted and his appearance is drastically altered. Adam’s physical form derails from what is defined as human and quickly leaps into the monstrous category. It seems like a very painful transition, which Mawle illustrates with colorful screams that you seem to feel in your very bones.
Complementary to last year’s “The Babadook,” “The Hallow” seems to create its own folklore. This creates a haunting tale that feels fresh, different, and unique; something the horror genre is consistently trying to represent but often fails to offer something worthwhile. There are elements of the story that feel predictable, but the big one in the final act is the important factor that the film keeps a mystery until a precise moment of its choosing.
Then there are the creatures that seem to be plucked from the ugliest and nastiest depths of hell or at least some morbid individual’s debilitating nightmares. Combined with a black fungus that zombifies whatever it touches including car motors and even being flung by these disgusting forest dwelling demons, the demonic beasts of “The Hallow” are a horror fan’s disquieting delight.
With transformation elements comparable to popular creature films such as John Carpenter’s “The Thing,” David Cronenberg’s “The Fly,” Neill Blomkamp’s “District 9,” extraordinary special effects in the same vein as “Splinter,” and grotesque yet visually (and audibly) satisfying creatures similar to the ones found in “The Descent,” “The Hallow” is a dark and twisted fairy tale that is a horrifying twist on the genre.