The Hallow (****1/2) takes you in

The Hallow Poster

The Hallow – 2015

Director Corin Hardy
Starring Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley
Screenplay Hardy and Felipe Marino

This is the kind of film that is made by a person of real talent. Hardy has been working on this film for about a decade, and before it was previewed at Sundance in January, he had landed the deal to do The Crow reboot. Until watching what he did with this film, The Crow has never piqued my interest.

The story begins with a father (Mawle) and his infant child on a stroll through the woods. The father, Adam Hitchens, is studying the area, prepping it for the eventual deforestation to make room for development. Meanwhile, wife and mother Claire (Novakovic) is back at the house, taking the metal bars off from in front of the windows. It’s been a month and the couple decided they were not necessary. They should have been left on.

Neighbor Colm Donnelly (McElhatton) comes over to grouch at Claire, demanding to speak with her husband as soon as possible. She’s heard this demand several times and passed the information on to Adam. Her husband avoids the conversation, stating that no matter what is said, it’s still his job to prepare the area for the future.

Problem is though, Donnelly knows that these woods have a past that will cause nothing but grief, should the family choose to ignore his advice. Of course if the advice were followed, it would be a short movie.

Signs immediately point to the wisdom of Donnelly’s advice, and before they can change their minds, the house and family has become a target. What comes after them and how they operate can be left to your imagination for now. Aside from the fact that there is an obvious inconsistency in the potency of the most obvious weapon of the homesteaders tormentors, the progression is helped along by great acting, pacing and effects design by John Nolan.

The entire last act is astounding. It is impossible to look away, even when you know what might happen. There hasn’t been a movie with this many tactile creatures since at least Pan’s Labyrinth, but maybe even John Carpenter’s The Thing. This is only proper as he cites both films as inspiration to the story, along with The Evil Dead. It’s Mawle and Novakovic that bring us in, though. They have a chemistry and a fluctuating level of trust that brings the classic Take Shelter to mind. For a horror flick, that is like reaching the peak of Mt. Everest.

See this film if you are any sort of fan of moving horror. The creatures are fine, but they alone do not amount to much without the choice that befalls the parents when faced with the prospect of a changeling. Hardy’s has as complete a grasp on the art of telling a disturbing story as I have seen since Jeff Nichols. It is a fair thing to expect that the next decade finds more of each of their films taking precedence in the American film lexicon.

(****1/2)

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