Director:Corin Hardy .
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley . UK/Ireland. 1h 24m.
It’s interesting to see an Irish horror story that doesn’t revolve around leprechauns and banshees but instead picks at the pantheon of folklore monsters from deep within the Irish forests but doesn’t really dig into their tangles mythology.
Adam (Mawle) and Clare (Novakovic) receive a hostile welcome from the locals after the pair of cityfolk set up home in an isolated house on the edge of a forest that Adam is tasked to work on, causing friction with the eco bunnies but their neighbour becomes a more sinister daily threat trying to persuade Adam and the baby to keep out of the Hallow, “the forest is their home, they want the child”. So Adam takes the baby on tour of the forest and discovers a grisly neuro-active fungus that strangely connects with the child snatching kiddy folk.
It’s actually a very interesting story and with some well crafted effects but it’s lacking the magic that the opening scenes seems to promise, a lavish ancient irish forest is captured with delicate photography similar to a more realistic Legend (198?), but this movie refuses to make any attempts to make us fall in love with magic, even Guillermo Del Toro causes some fascination with dark creatures before he uses them to frighten us.
In credit the movie doesn’t mull around too long before the forest dwelling fairy folk make themselves known and feared, after spotting some Willow Wisps a new creepy hell begins for this terrified duo and their delightful baby boy, who is the prime target A shadowy neighbour, Colm Donnelly played by Michael McElhatton turns up throughout the film with warnings and plays a convincing broken man who’s deadly warnings are easily brushed aside as local paranoia, even by a police officer (Michael Smiley) who is called to investigate a supposed break in , who also makes a joke and laughs it all off. But when things really kick off the couple are put to the test both mentally and physically.
The subtle creepiness of the film is often missed in an attempt to see the creepy monsters of this big screen debut from Corin Hardy, but with a gentle nod to the classic horror scene this isn’t full of annoying false jump scares but settles into some slower paced creepy scenes that build up tremendous tension. The creatures remain quite anonymous as the audience is kept in the dark as much as the couple are and they slowly discover weaknesses, this really adds in some mystery and tension, especially in the scene where Clare is hiding in the loft and a goblin arm is reaching through trying to stab her in the eye, and there is a lot of eye stabbing, which is great for the squeamish.
Corin manages to create a deep forest environment and really tortures the parents of this innocent little boy and they fight for survival throughout a night of attacks, similar to supernatural Straw Dogs (another Irish classic) and Il’s- Them (???). Joseph Mawle’s takes on a hefty role, as he deals with a split persona after being “infected” by a fairy virus (and I have to mention this.. I’ve always had a thing for him since Heartless and he looks identical to one of my ex’s but I noticed in Heart of the Sea () that his head is the same shape as Grandpa Simpson). it’s thrilling but a little stale in its approach, there could have been some richness in it’s production and if it was trying to appeal to horror fans it certainly needed a lot more fear, but as a dark fantasy it certainly works, especially in the stop motion scenes involving the baby or potential changeling, they are very creative.
R – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), Evil Dead (1981), Alien (1979), Isolation (2005), The Hollow (2015)
L – Forest Horrors, Cabin in the woods, Selected Irish Films, Folklore films
A – Stop Motion, a brilliant addition to any film.
5S – Joseph Mawle, Michael Smiley
Vs – The Hallow Vs The Hollow