You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Sundance Film Review: ‘The Hallow’

Visual artist Corin Hardy's arresting first film is an unabashed creature feature.

Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2474976/

It takes time for “The Hallow” to get rolling, but once it reaches a bang-up final act, genre fans could walk out clamoring for a sequel. The directorial debut of visual artist Corin Hardy is never less than arresting to the eye, but thin characters and a familiar story hold this Irish chiller back from entering the top tier of recent horror entries. Fortunately, the human characters ultimately don’t matter nearly as much as the diabolical beings they encounter. That’s enough to make the film’s haunted forest worth a visit for creature feature buffs worldwide.

Like so many genre entries before it, “The Hallow” opens with a married couple — Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare (Bojana Novakovic) — relocating to a remote area, in this case with their newborn baby, Finn, in tow. They’re almost immediately warned by foreboding neighbor Colm (Michael McElhatton) that their choice of abode makes them a target for nasty spirits who dwell in the woods, preying on children. But Adam’s job as conservationist requires study of those very woods, and he thinks nothing of going exploring with Finn strapped to his back and the family dog by their side.

His first major discovery: a rotting deer carcass stuck to a wall by a mysterious black goo. (The rundown house it occupies looks straight out of “True Detective’s” Carcosa.) Taking the goo home for further investigation, Adam discovers it hosts a “zombie fungus” that attaches to a host and takes control like a body snatcher (it’s an actual scientific thing, not a horror construct). Adam finds it fascinating, Clare thinks it’s ominous, but the rules of the genre are in full effect: No one will be leaving the house until it’s far too late.

Hardy and co-writer Felipe Marino ratchet up the tension in a series of increasingly clever setpieces, including a relatively early doozy in which Adam finds himself trapped in the trunk of his car while Finn wails in the backseat and unseen forces attack loudly and violently from the outside. Novakovic’s Clare has her own pair of action-heroine moments showcasing the lengths to which a mother will go to protect her child, but the script would’ve been wise to bulk up her character given the twists in store for Adam as the story shifts into high gear. Without giving too much away, Adam’s fate involves a combination of elements from “The Shining” and “District 9,” his rapidly deteriorating mental state adding an extra layer of suspense to the external terrors the family faces.

The entire pic essentially becomes a feature-length excuse for promising director Hardy (already attached to a reboot of “The Crow” at Relativity) to indulge his love of movie monsters. It’s an opportunity he seizes with palpable fanboy glee as evidenced by the closing-credits dedication to genre luminaries Ray Harryhausen, Dick Smith and Stan Winston. The production embraces a thrilling mix of practical effects, animatronics, puppetry and prosthetics along with subtle CG enhancements to create a vivid collection of nightmarish fiends (dubbed fairies, banshees and baby snatchers by the locals).

Aside from the monsters lurking within, “The Hallow” benefits from a full lineup of superlative craft contributions. They begin with Martijn Van Broekhuizen’s painterly camerawork, which plays with shadow and light in eerie, evocative ways and beautifully embellishes the script’s fairy-tale quality. Steve Fanagan’s visceral sound design works in tandem with Nick Emerson’s sharp editing, James Gosling’s spooky score and Mags Linnane’s captivating production design to ensure the atmospherics are spot-on from the very beginning all the way through a darkly comic finish.

Sundance Film Review: 'The Hallow'

Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 26, 2015. Running time: 97 MIN.

Production: (Ireland-U.K.) An Occupant Entertainment and Fantastic Films presentation in association with Hyperion Media Group, the Irish Film Board, Prescience Film Finance. (International sales: Altitude Film Sales, London.) Produced by Joe Neurauter, Felipe Marino. Executive producers, Tim Smith, Paul Brett, Michael Mailis, Will Clarke, Kate Sharp. Co-­producers, John McDonnell, Brendan McCarthy.

Crew: Directed by Corin Hardy. Screenplay, Hardy, Felipe Marino. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Martijn Van Broekhuizen; editor, Nick Emerson; music, James Gosling; music supervisor, Melany Mitchell; production designer, Mags Linnane; art director, David Ahern; set decorator, Julie Tierney; costume designer, Lara Campbell; sound, Danny Crowley; supervising sound editor, Steve Fanagan; re-recording mixers, Fanagan, Garret Farrell; animatronics/makeup effects supervisor, John Nolan; visual effects supervisor, Stephen Coren; visual effects, Windmill Lane, Jellyfish Pictures, Horsie in the Hedge; special effects, Cowshed Media Limited; creature performance choreographer, Peter Elliot; stunt coordinator, Joe Condren; line producer, Cathleen Dore; assistant director, Ivan McMahon; casting, Dixie Chassay.

With: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Michael Smiley.

More Film

  • Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda

    Arca, Cacerola, Viento del Norte, Panda Team on ‘Mental Health Not Included’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — In a return to film production after serving as president of Argentina’s National Institute of Film and the Audiovisual Arts (INCAA) and then as a member of parliament, film producer Liliana Mazure is teaming with prestigious counterparts in Mexico and Brazil on a three-part, pan-regional dark comedy, “Mental Health Not Included.” Lead [...]

  • IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent

    IFFAM and Variety Celebrate Asian Talent Up Next

    The International Film Festival and Awards Macao and Variety combined forces for the second year running to put a spotlight on Asia’s acting talent. A well-attended meet-the-stars press event on Friday afternoon in Macau was addressed by leading local official, Maria Helena Senna de Fernandes. She turned the microphone over the five actors from different [...]

  • Panorama, Delicious Team for Bernardo de

    Panorama, Delicious Team for Bernardo de la Rosa’s ‘Mario’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    BUENOS AIRES — One of Mexico’s highest-flying production houses whose latest movie production, “I’m No Longer Here,” screens as a work on progress at Ventana Sur, Gerardo Gática and Alberto Muffelmann’s Panorama Global, will produce “Mario,” a bio series directed by Bernardo de la Rosa which underscores Latin America’s building drive into bilingual, bi-country U.S.-Mexico [...]

  • Backtrace Review

    Film Review: 'Backtrace'

    “You can’t kill me! I died seven years ago!” It’s very much to the credit of Matthew Modine that he persuasively sells this melodramatic scrap of dialogue, and every other aspect of his trickily written lead character, in “Backtrace,” a better-than-average VOD-centric thriller that likely wouldn’t work nearly so well without the veteran actor’s totally [...]

  • Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    Film News Roundup: 'Lawnmower Man' Director Brett Leonard Boards 'Elijah'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Elijah” gets a director, a French fry documentary starts shooting and “Uglydolls” moves its release date forward. PROJECT LAUNCH More Reviews Film Review: 'Backtrace' Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Brett Leonard, best known for directing ”The Lawnmower Man” and “Virtuosity,” will direct the supernatural feature film “Elijah,” based on [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Commercial Negotiations Set for February

    With no fanfare, SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry have set a mid-February start for negotiations for a successor deal to the union’s master contract, Variety has learned. The current three-year deal — which covers about $1 billion in annual earnings — expires on March 31. SAG-AFTRA and the Joint Policy Committee of the ad industry [...]


    Oscar Nominee Sondra Locke Dies at 74

    Actress and director Sondra Locke, who received a supporting actress Oscar nomination in her first movie role for “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” died Nov. 3 at 74. The Los Angeles County Public Health Department confirmed her death. She died due to breast and bone cancer, according to Radar Online, which reported that she [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content