LIFF29 - The Hallow - Cinema Review

'In terms of production values and execution The Hallow easily stands alongside anything that has come out of the US in recent years'.

It's always a pleasure to see decent genre films coming from somewhere other than the Hollywood money factory, and The Hallow is no exception. A British-Irish co-production set in Ireland and backed by, amongst others, the Irish Film Board, in terms of production values and execution The Hallow easily stands alongside anything that has come out of the US in recent years.

The horror element within The Hallow's story is pleasingly located within Irish mythology, making its woodland-dwelling supernatural creatures The Hallow (being as it is a collective noun) more grounded in established lore than most monsters found in contemporary horror. The Hallow are most effective when they remain largely unseen during the first three quarters of the film, and whilst they remain creepy once director Corin Hardy decides to give us a good look at them, they somewhat lose their impact in a manner endemic to horror films that choose not to keep their beasties under wraps.

On the human side of things, The Hallow presents us with a fairly stock couple lifted somewhat by the performances of leads Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic. Introduced as something of a cocky and impetuous figure, conservationist Adam (Mawle) is at times difficult to have sympathy for, particularly during the first half of the film. His wife Clare (Novakovic) is slightly easier to relate to, although some of the decisions she makes later on feel somewhat hackneyed in their naivety. Of course, Adam and Clare have a baby, whose name may as well be "MacGuffin" during the final act, and a dog who can unsurprisingly sense the danger they are all too keen to ignore far sooner than either of them.

It's in this inability to innovate, choosing instead to stick with tried and tested ideas, that Hardy's film falls down the furthest. Everything The Hallow has to offer is standard horror fare, albeit done very well for the most part. The locals are little more than spooked provincials, initially presented as resistant to change but predictably knowing more about the dangers of the woods than the central couple give them credit for. Michael Smiley turns up all too briefly as "Constable Exposition" in the first act, giving Hardy an easy route to setting out his horror stall early on.

In terms of its influences, the most obvious here is Raimi's Evil Dead - there's even a creepy-looking book introduced at one point - although more recent offerings such as District 9 can also be spied more subtly. Again, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially when The Hallow uses these influences so well, but it would have been nice to see a few more original ideas from Hardy as both director and co-author of the screenplay with Felipe Marino. Whilst it may not be the most original horror film of recent years, however, those looking for effective scares will no doubt find plenty to like, with a couple of nasty eye-related scenes being particularly wince-inducing and well done.

The 29th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-19th November 2015 at venues around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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