Hardy's feature debut is short on plot development but long on style and creepy atmosphere.
Claire and Adam Hitchens (Bojana Novakovic and Joseph Mawle) are
Londoners who’ve arrived to set up house in a remote Irish forest with
their infant son in tow. Adam is an arborist hired by a firm that has
just acquired the land and wants him to evaluate the timber for
The family is regarded with hostility by the townsfolk, especially
neighbor Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton), who warns them that they’re
trespassing where they don’t belong and disturbing The Hallow —
mythical, malevolent spirits that dwell in the woods and are said to
Deep in the forest, Adam finds the carcass of a deer in an abandoned
ruin, covered by a strange, tar-like substance. Taking a sample home and
examining it under a microscope, he discovers that it contains a type
of zombie fungus that penetrates and takes over living cells. Soon
enough, more of the sludge begins to drip from the ceiling and seep
through the walls of the house, and before you can say “Boo!” the family
is under siege by the very creatures Colm had sought to warn them
The Hallow takes elements from The Evil Dead, David Cronenberg’s body horrors and the fairytale feel of Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves
to deliver an old-fashioned creature feature that, if not wholly
original, has an arresting style of its own and gives horror fans plenty
to feast upon. And with such a straightforward plot, Hardy and
co-writer Felipe Marino are instead able to focus on delivering the
jolts. Moreover, these jolts are well-earned, being much more visceral
and intense than the typical spookhouse pop-ups that have come to define
the ho-hum Paranormal Activity style of films.
The filmmakers wisely keep the creatures in the shadows at first,
briefly glimpsed out of the corner of an eye or in a camera viewfinder.
Instead, they use sound to heighten the terror, as in a truly
frightening sequence in which Adam finds himself trapped in the boot of
his own car while it is being violently attacked from outside. Or they
tease us with glimpses of creepy limbs, as when Claire, holed up in the
attic, sees one of the monsters smash its impossibly long, bony arm
through the trap door to get at her, and it looks for all the world like
fossilized wood. In keeping with the tenets of the genre, a fuller
reveal of the monsters is reserved for the final battle.
Martijn Van Broekhuizen’s chiaroscuro cinematography drips with
dread, aided by Mags Linnane’s terrific production design, which
transforms their ancient, converted millhouse into a living, poisonous
creature unto itself. James Gosling’s classic horror score rounds out
the chills. As Hardy is a professed fan of old-school horror, almost all
of The Hallow‘s special effects are practical – animatronics
and puppetry (the film is dedicated to Ray Harryhausen, Dick Smith and
Stan Winston) – and it looks so much more convincing than CG.
Hardy is already set to helm the reboot of The Crow for
Relativity Media. If he is able to bring a similarly rich visual style
to that film, it will be a remake well worth checking out. The Hallow is currently playing in select theaters and on demand.