The Hallow (2015)

Somehow I missed this unusual Irish horror indie from 2015. I recently picked it up in a $10 Blu-ray bin at Best Buy. The film draws inspiration from several movies, and reminds me of Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973), with superstitious locals and pagan themes; Splinter (2008), which also featured a parasitic black ooze; the remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)(Guillermo Del Toro’s vision of a ancient evil forest is similar to this one); The Thing (1981), a polymorphic copycat organism; and Philip Kaufman’s remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), which first depicted an organism with mycorrhizal-like tendrils that take over a host. Director Corin Hardy has acknowledged several influences primarily from the late 1970’s to mid-1980’s.

Visually the film is stunning and the creatures look like something fabricated by Rob Bottin, circa 1980. This is all prop work with puppets and prosthetics. The script refers to the monsters as forest dwelling fairies, gnomes or banshees that seek out what we love most. I liked the story about a conservationist investigating a plague impacting flora and fauna in a deep Irish woodland, and putting his wife and child in harm. The film looks good too and the monsters deliver. I liked the inclusion of iron as a talisman to fight off ancient evil. 

However, as the film moved along I lost interest in the characters. The script never allows the two leads to be likable —they put their baby in a cubbard, scoff at local traditions, spray-paint Xs on trees, drive around the forest playing obnoxious music, and we really never get to identify with the players. We know what’s coming to this couple.

I wish the film had expanded a bit more on the folklore of the hallow. A fantastic book of folklore is introduced and it potentially serves the same purpose (a key) as Karswell’s “witchcraft through the ages” volume in Night of the Demon (1957). It’s a mysterious book bound with a thorny botanical cover —it reminds me of the Voynich manuscript, but we never get a deep glimpse into the book.

I also thought the unsatisfying ending was convenient, with the purifying rays of the sun once again saving the day. Was the final end title sequence an environmental stance against logging in Ireland? We know the Hallow will be back.

Still, I liked this film and appreciate the old school approach. I could see the story in a vintage Hammer film starring Peter Cushing as the scientist and Christopher Lee as the leader of a pagan cult, with Niall Macginnis as an angry villager toting a shotgun. 

The Hallow (2015) is worth a peak. Don’t expect a classic. Fangoria called this “a visually engaging and starkly terrifying monster film” and I agree. 

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