Sunday, March 27, 2016

THE HALLOW (2015) (Blu-ray Review)


Label: Scream Factory I IFC Midnight

release Date: April 5th 2016 
Region Code: A
Duration: 97 Minutes
Audio: English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1, DTS-HD MA Stereo 2.0 with Optional English Subtitles
Video: 1080p HD Widescreen (2.35:1) 
Director: Corin Hardy
Cast: Michael Smiley, Stuart Graham, Bojana Novakovic, Gary Lydon, Joseph Mawle, Michael McElhatton

Adam (Joseph Mawle, Game of Thrones) is a London-based conservationist, who along with his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic, Drag Me To Hell) and infant son Finn, travel to a remote village in Ireland where Adam has been assigned to survey the area before the deeply wooded area is opened up to logging. The decision to open up the area to the logging industry has upset the ocals in the area, particularly a neighbor named Colm (Michael McElhatton), who warns Adam to avoid venturing into the woods with his infant son, warning that his own daughter Clara disappeared year earlier after having wandered into the woods alone. The locals believe malevolent  woodland spirits they call The Hallow live in the woods and that Adam's excursion into the lush forests will disturb them, which is exactly what happens.

Adam being from the city doesn't pay much heed to speak of evil woodland spirits, and when a window in his son's room is broken out one night he believes it is just an angry Colm trying to scare him away, but as the story continues it becomes much harder to turn a blind eye to the demonic creatures who seem to be out to steal away his infant son from him and his wife.  

The movie comes to us from first time director Corin Hardy and it is quite a debut, a dark fairytale along the lines of Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth or Don't Be afraid of the Dark, the movie features a gorgeous Irish wooded backdrop, some palpable atmosphere and some very cool creatures which are damn creepy. All good stuff, but the movie does start off with a bit of a slow build, taking nearly forty minutes before it gets a proper head of steam going, and during that phase the woodland spirits are only hinted, but once they do make themselves known things get underway with some proper scares, though the movie  not very terrifying, instead offering some good suspense filled tension and drama. 

Where the movie excels is the Irish folklore angle of the story, far too often we as horror fans are inundated with sun-shy blood drinkers and the hungry undead, woodland spirits are found far and few between and I think it makes a ripe subject. Hardin does a good job of bringing some Irish folk horror to the small screen, and is largely successful. Adding a scientific element to the story along the way, when Adam discovers a strange black slime that can infect a person and transform them, which plays out during the final third of the movie, leaving our young parents not just under attack from woodland spirits but also trying to evade the malicious black slime which seems to a mind of its own, which was a  nice touch, this part of the story brought o mind the unsung indie horror Splinter from 2008, which is worth seeking out f you have not come across it on your own. 

Both Mawle and Novakovic do good work as parents desperately trying to protect their infant son from the demonic horde of woodland creatures with an appropriate amount of concern and dread, though Mawle as Adam does take a bit of while o come around to the idea that there's more going on than just an angry neighbor out to give them a fright, but I am not sure woodland spirits would be the first thing that would come to my mind either, but even just thinking an angry neighbor was causing a fuss would have scared me off early on.

While the scares are a bit thin the movie does not want for suspense and tension, plus those creature make-up f/x are fantastic, Hardin largely forgoes digital in favor of old school performers in rubber suits with some digital enhancement, and it totally worked for me, this is creepy stuff, and there's just not enough folk horror out there these days, so this is a welcome addition. 

Audio/Video: The Hollow arrives on Blu-ray from IFC Midnight and Scream Factory presented in the scope 2.35 aspect ratio looking nice and sharp in HD. The movie has a lot of dark scenes so that the shadow detail is so nice was much appreciated. The English DTS-HD MA Surround 5.1 was a nice treat, plenty of use of the surrounds to put across the creepy creature sounds and atmospheric score, optional English and Spanish subtitles are provided. 

Onto the extras we have an informative audio commentary from Director Corin Hardy who covers a lot of ground about the making of the creature feature, plus a nearly hour long making of doc, and seven smaller 2-3 minute behind-the-scenes featurettes covering the story, influences, F/X and galleries of sketch drawings and storyboards for the movie, which seem to be smaller bite-size chunks straight from the making-of doc. Aside from a  theatrical trailer for the movie we also get a reversible sleeve of artwork featuring the cool original poster artwork and a slipcover for the standard issue blue keep case

Special Features

- Audio Commentary With Director Corin Hardy
- Surviving The Fairytale: The Making Of The Hallow (51 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes: The Story (3 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes: Influence (2 Mins) HD 
- Behind-The-Scenes: Practical F/X (2 Mins) HD 
- Director's Storyboards Gallery (2 Mins) HD 
- Director's Sketchbook Gallery (3 Mins) HD 
- The Book Of Invasions – Original Illustrations Gallery (3 Mins) HD 
- Creature Concepts Gallery (1 Mins) HD 
- Theatrical Trailer (2 Mins) HD 
- Reversible Sleeve of Artwork 

The Hollow (2015) is an engaging folk horror entry that has a wonderful dark fairytale atmosphere about it, for a first time director I would say this was a knockout minus a few pacing issues early on, but it makes up for with an engaging story and Irish folklore premise, highly recommended. 4/5