Corin Hardy’s The Hallow is horror with a purpose. He’s crafted a genre movie in which the brilliant production values are matched by real allegorical weight and where what the characters go through emotionally is just a frightening as what they’re exposed to physically.
Joseph Mawle plays Adam, husband to Bojana Novakovic’s Claire and father to their infant son. The two of them have recently moved their family away from the hustle and bustle of London so Adam can pursue his ’tree doctor’-ing in the stunning Irish countryside. But beneath the sweeping landscapes lie dark forests, and in those forests something darker still.
However, what begins as an environmentalism parable soon morphs into a far more human post-natal depression allegory as Adam and Claire’s dearest of treasures is in danger of being snatched from them.
Hardy knows just how great an empathy device he’s crafted with this child abduction threat and it ensures the stakes are never less than life and death. It’s not long before the unease reaches palpable levels, but Hardy refuses to relent and the tension continues to rise.
In this regard, the pacing can seem unconventional and, at times, unsustainable, but Hardy knows right where he’s leading us. Some beats seem to hit a little earlier than expected, but by the time the big finale comes around, everything feels just right.
Hardy is constantly toying with the audience, challenging their understanding and acceptance of genre tropes and utilizing a killer streak of dramatic irony. Despite this confidence with generic convention, many of the basic narrative beats do play out as expected, but that simply feels part of Hardy’s assured storytelling. I was never bored by the unsurprising plot developments, instead anticipating the story’s next twist and turn became an intrinsic part of the game and left dread’s dark shadow looming large over the unfolding action.
The narrative expertise is more than matched by the filmmaking technique on display. Firstly, Steve Fanagan’s sound design is superb and it does a lot of the heavy lifting early on before the hordes are let loose. Branches snap, gooey bits squelch and bones crunch to create a gloriously visceral soundscape. Add this to John Nolan’s outstanding CG-enhanced practical monster effects and Hardy’s got a film that belies its (presumably) minimal budget at every turn.
In The Hallow, great monster design, stunning visuals, affecting performances, and poised direction combine to create a terrific thematically driven twisted fairytale chiller. Put simply, Corin Hardy’s debut feature is one of the horror standouts of the year. See it!
P.S. Make sure you stick around for the gorgeous over-the-credits shot!
A big thank you to the FDA for hosting the screening!