Nature has a dark side.
Pulling from ancient Irish fables and mythology, The Hallow, also known as The Woods, takes the fairy tale atmosphere and destroys it with malevolence and foreboding darkness.
Tasked with unfortunate responsibility of going into rural Ireland’s natural landscape, British conservationist Adam Hitchens must venture into the woods and choose which trees are right for milling. The townspeople warn him that he doesn’t belong, that in those woods are land belonging to the Hallow, tiny little ancient tree fairies who were driven from their sacred lands. Ignoring their warnings, Adam and his family quickly find out there’s truth in mythology, and fight to survive the night against these demonic creatures.
The Hallow is an effective horror because it does not rely on one type of horror, imperative of those select creature genre flicks which always end up disappointing. The horror is multi-layered, initially relying on the foreboding sense of unrest from the superstitious townspeople. Then it morphs into a creature horror, but just when you think its simplicity has reached a peak, it turns again, this time the utter terror and cringe inducing body horror of a dark essence invading your skin. But it’s not over yet, then it adds the complete panic of a mother protecting her child at the risk of losing him forever. With all these ingredients, there is a type of horror for everyone to get you squirming.
It’s rather amazing that The Hallow is Corin Hardy’s first legitimate feature film. His grasp upon mood and ability to integrate story with scares while having the eye to make a visually stunning film that is overcast and dark is beyond impressive, with similar praise going to the cinematographer Martijn van Broekhuizen. His use of natural scenery, muted tones, and shadows to hide and highlight the ominous creatures of the woods is that of someone far beyond his experience. It is no wonder that, though a relative unknown, he is slated to direct the remake of The Crow.
It is clear that no aspect of The Hallow was beyond Hardy’s creative reach. Everything is subtle, muted even. The music is practically subliminal, building tension naturally rather than forcing an emotion that is not organically present in the subject matter. And yet, Hardy’s film has clear vision and makes a strong statement by veering past the standard three Act format and skipping from the first to the third with no middle act to be found.
Based on the execution of The Hallow, I think Corin Hardy is going to be one of the up and coming directors to watch the way James Wan took over the horror scene. The Hallow may not be as a resounding scream of an announcement of talent as Saw was for Wan, but is surely the statement to get Hardy started.