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E.C. McMullen Jr.
HALLOW
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THE HALLOW - 2015
USA Release: Nov. 5, 2015
Hallow Films, Altitude Film Entertainment, Altus Media (Five), Bord Scannán Na hÉireann, Electric Shadow, Fantastic Films, Hindsight Media, Hyperion Media Group, Occupant Entertainment, Prescience, IFC Midnight
Rating: USA: R

Have you ever watched a movie that everyone seems to hate, but you love? I've learned over the years that such movies generally become cult films, building a small, yet ever increasing audience over time as more people discover it and a small fraction of those like or love it.

I've also witnessed the opposite. A movie that I wanted to love, but was so flawed it kept popping me out of the story despite my best efforts to suspend disbelief and stay in it.

Understand that even though my preferences lean toward Science Fiction Horror, I can enjoy Supernatural Horror because I know there is so much we don't know. And of course, there is so much we don't know that we don't know (the realm of things unimagined).

By the same token, though I lean toward Science Fiction in my choice of Horror and Thriller tales, I cannot enjoy a science fiction movie if the plotline is, Everything That Can Go Wrong Does Go Wrong.

You want to throw a story at me like that, then the story should be about a journey or mission that was botched from the outset because of X. A bunch of needless storyline beats where there is a red warning light every five minutes is dull because it's contrived.

So anyway, I saw the movie THE HALLOW.

It begins with a bit of poetry,

Hallow be their name,
And blessed be their claim.
If you who trespass put down roots,
Then Hallow be your name.
- The Book of Invasions C.1150


THE HALLOW opens with beautiful cinematography of a forest. The camera takes us from wide open shots, to close ups, and back again, and it all flows nicely (thanks to Martijn van Broekhuizen).

Then we see a ferry approaching an island and on that ferry, is the Happy Couple, their baby, and their dog, Iggy.

The boat lands and we hear on the radio of a protest. Irish folks are protesting a company coming in to clear out some old growth forest.

So far Director and co-writer, Corin Hardy, along with his co-writer and producer Felipe Marino (ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE), have us on solid ground.

The Husband/Daddy, Adam Hitchins (Joseph Mawle: RED RIDING: IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD 1980, GAME OF THRONES [TV], THE AWAKENING [2011], ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, RIPPER STREET [TV]) is a representative of the company who spends his days carrying his baby son in a papoose on his back, while he surveys and marks trees with Xs. These will be the ones cleared away.

Adam and his dog find an abandoned cottage and a dead animal inside. What piques Adam's interest in the dead animal is the unusual life forms that appear to be growing out of it. He takes a sample of the green sludge and puts it in a specimen cup.

Meanwhile, back at their new home, Wife/Mommy Clare (Bojana Novakovic: THE MONKEY'S MASK, DRAG ME TO HELL, DEVIL, BEYOND SKYLINE, MALICIOUS) gets an unexpected and unwelcome visit from rural neighbor, Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton: GAME OF THRONES [TV], THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, THE FOREIGNER, THE ROOK [TV], THE WINTER LAKE, THE ALIENIST [TV]) and his son.

Seems Colm has a problem with the Hitchins family. What is mysterious is whether Donnelly is threatening them or desperately trying to warn them.

When Adam returns the situation is no clearer. Adam is committed to his job, as well as his curiosity over the specimens he found in the forest. They've been there a month, and the neighbors want to meet him, talk to him. Adam, knowing that his stay is temporary, doesn't want them involved in his life. Especially so as he knows that his neighbors are dead set against his job, which is surveying the area to harvest huge swaths of old growth forest.

Meanwhile, Adam's specimen from the forest, seen on a slide beneath a microscope, has turned up something utterly astounding. A single cell organism that wildly attacks other living cells with its microscopic spear tentacles. John Carpenter's THE THING has nothing on this cell and it appears voracious – attacking and eating every cell in sight.

The SFX is realistic and dramatic, which makes it so Unbelievable that Adam, a scientist, gives it nothing more than an interested shrug.

To be clear, Adam has just discovered an UNdiscovered, UNprecedented single cell life form in the forest which devours all other cells within reach. He does nothing to act upon this discovery of such a fantastic contagion?!?

The hell?

I mean, is he a robot like Ash? Sent by the company... ? No, it's just dumbfoundingly bad writing, courtesy of Corin Hardy and Felipe Marino.

True Tom DeVille gets story credit, but since he didn't get screenwriter or director credit he had no say in leaving such an exhasperating canyon of plot hole in the movie..

Then Adam's wife, Clare, comes into his makeshift lab and tells him that some kind of weird sludge is dripping from the ceiling and onto their son's bed.

Does Adam make the connection, immediately jump up and get his family the hell out of there?

No, he simply helps his wife move the bed to another part of The Same Room.

Say! Maybe Adam got infected in the forest and he is changing into a...

Nope, just unbelievably bad plotting, characterization, and forehead slapping stupidity from the director and co-writer.

Next, Adam regales his wife with a photo of a specific type of fungus that enters the brain of an ant and controls its mind. So Adam is keenly aware, more than most folks, just how Horrific his new discovery is and what it is capable of.

So at that point Adam puts it all together and gets his wife and son the hell away from there, right?

No... Adam decides to have a drink, and maybe bit of slap and tickle with Clare.

Then something breaks their upstairs window in their child's room. One phone call later and the local Police pay a visit in the form of Officer Garda Davey (Michael Smiley: SHAUN OF THE DEAD, OUTPOST, WIRE IN THE BLOOD [TV], BURKE AND HARE, KILL LIST, THE WORLD'S END, BLACK SEA, THE LOBSTER, THE ALIENS [TV], TANK 432, THE NUN, COME TO DADDY). Officer Garda warns the couple that the locals fear the old growth forest and the ancient things that live there: Banshees, fairies, baby stealers.

Adam balks at such nonsense, but though Officer Davey doesn't believe such things himself, he explains, "Mister Hitchens this isn't London. Things go bump in the night."

Then... no, I'm sorry. I'm trying really hard to stay in this movie but being as Adam is supposed to be a scientist who studies forest and fauna and even has his own lab in his home, and his terrifying discovery doesn't immediately compel him to contact emergency government services is pulling me out of the movie and not letting me back in.

Also, Adam thinks nothing of having his wife and son continue to spend another second in this contagion hot zone. A contagion, I might add, which appears to be obviously entering their house and their son's room.

Adam stands directly in the light of this blaring freight train bearing down upon him and does nothing. And the movie does nothing to address what is holding Adam back.

This! Movie! Won't! Let me! Enjoy it!

Barring apocalyptic stories where survival is impossible and the best the characters can hope for is dying in the arms of a fellow human being, every book I've read or movie I've watched on these conditions follows obvious recognizable human response to the prospect of impending doom.

1. We have to get out of here!
2. We are trapped here so -
2a. We build our defenses!
2b. We mount an assault!

None of this happens. Instead Adam goes for the inexplicable,
3. No big deal. I'll just keep it to myself, sleep on it, and tomorrow I'll see about getting that window fixed.

Everything that happens after this: the creative woodland creatures and creature effects, the effective cinematography, all can't get past the fact that the movie showed its hand in the first 15 minutes then ignored it. Everything after that spectacular microbe attack sequence, viewed by a main character Who Makes It Clear that he understands the danger of such a creature, should be a desperate flight for life.

Apparently the point of the deadly microbe in the beginning is to give a sniff of scientific plausibility to the weird varmints wot live in these woods - but they are all beside the point because of the Holy Freakin' Shit Microbe!

If only they didn't try to explain it scientifically. If only they didn't have the microbe scene, then I could have accepted this as a Supernatural Horror movie no problem. The creatures it unveiled would simply fall under the "Things We've Yet to Discover" and all would be well.

In short, the scene wasn't necessary!

If they really needed that extra three or so minutes in the movie, they should have spent that time fleshing out the empty characters. The actors gave it their personal all, but the writing and direction supplied them with nothing to give.

Instead of fully fleshed out, interesting characters, we not only get a contrived scifi plotline, but a ludicrous reaction by a scientist.

Are you saying, "Hey Feo, what do I care? I'm no scientist!" Well think about it on a non-scientist, every day Joe, angle.

There you are, fresh in the forest with your spouse and child, enjoying the scenery for the first time, and you suddenly see a monstrous creature wheeling across the landscape, slaughtering the forest varmints with its shooting spear pointed tentacles, causing them to radically dissolve or explode - Right Before Your Eyes!

In the face of this horrific danger would your overriding reaction really be, "Huh. Now there's something you don't see everyday. I wonder what's on TV?"

GAH!

Few movies have made me just want to bang my head against the wall over their sheer stupidity as much as THE HALLOWS.

1 Shriek Girl

Shriek Girls
This review copyright 2020 E.C.McMullen Jr.

The Hallow (2015) on IMDb
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