I am a huge fan of The Crow and its mythology, so ever since Corin Hardy was announced as director of the reboot I have wanted to see his debut feature. It has received very positive reviews at various film festivals across the globe and was chosen as the opening gala screening at Grimmfest 2015. The screening was introduced by Hardy and its star Joseph Mawle and so with expectations high, the cinema darkened and we were transported to rural Ireland.
Adam Hitchens, a London-based conservationist is sent to survey an area of forest believed to be hallowed ground by superstitious locals. His wife Clare and their young son go with him and the family take root in a secluded house within the middle of the forest. Although warned by twitchy locals not to disturb these sacred grounds because it will anger ‘The Hallow’ (mythical woodland creatures), Adam forges on ahead with his conservation work. It is his naivety and scepticism which ultimately sets off a chain of events that has catastrophic consequences for him and his family.
I’ll be honest there were three main reasons I wanted to see this film; primarily to see what Hardy’s visual style was like; because of his history in stop motion animation and his support of old school practical SFX and finally because it had received such good word of mouth on the horror circuit. The Hallow is undoubtedly an impressive debut and Hardy has a very definitive visual style expressed through effective cinematography and editing with many shots presented like pieces of art. Old school SFX are also present, for example the monsters are practical effects enhanced by subtle CGI and there is a scene involving stop motion animation towards the end that is both beautiful and grotesque. So, that just brings us to the positive word of mouth and on this point I am afraid I have to disagree.
The Hallow‘s main problem is that it lacks outright suspense. Although it has some very effective set pieces, for example Adam’s frantic attempt to escape his car boot as monsters attack the exterior with his son on the back seat; Clare desperately trying to fend off monsters as she hides in the attic and the monster attack in the kitchen; the film just isn’t that scary! This issue is not helped by Adam and Clare deciding to escape The Hallow rather abruptly; it feels like there’s at least another two or three events of terrorisation that we should have witnessed before they inevitably flee. For seasoned horror fans (and I’d say even your more general cinema goers) the film doesn’t present anything new. During the introduction Hardy was very honest about his influences (The Thing, Straw Dogs and Alien among others) and as would be expected these were all evident within his debut but sadly to its detriment. The Hallow throws way too much into the mix (body horror, possession, home invasion, Celtic folklore and relationship drama) and its apparent rush to get us to the end credits scene leaves us with some of these threads feeling disingenuous; in particular Clare’s reaction to her husband’s fate.
Hardy has created a very impressive debut and on this evidence he is a great fit for the bleak world of The Crow, however I am more interested in seeing what he does next than ever revisiting these woods again.