The Hallow (2015)

The Hallow is a 2015 Irish / British horror movie that dives into the western traditional folklore of the faeries. The movie has a lean cast, and given that, it has more special effects than you'd think. How'd the effects turn out? Well, check out the trailer below, and then continue down for our review to find out. Unless you'd rather not have this thing spoiled. That happens here.

 
 

Jack: Bam, we’re back. Jack and Jake. The original. Coke Classic. Some other metaphor. Plus I’m back in bold this week. I like Mark and all, but he took my bold last week man, he . . . he just took it. But I’m back in bold!

Jake: You almost had it. Bold or not, we’ve got a thing going here, man. If you start the review, you must start it with the title. Now the chi is straight fucked.

Jack: Oh yeah, shit! It’s not too late: The Hallow! That feels too late... Oh well, we’ll fix that in the post. So now, down to business. We watched the Hallow, which is a 2015 horror movie about . . . oh what’s that?

 
 

Jack: What’s that is that the Pittsburgh Penguins of hockey just won the god damned STANLEY CUP! That’s what that is. Suck it! Go Pens. I like the Penguins is what I’m saying. I am a fan of their hockey club.

Jake: Typically this is where I’d go on about how much of a little bitch Sidney Crosby is, but I’m not going to do that today. Congrats to Pittsburgh. Fuck them, but congrats. We do have a movie to review though, and as you were barely able to get across, it’s called The Hallow. Let’s talk about that.

Jack: Okay fine, I’ll shut up (for now) about the Penguins FOURTH Stanley Cup win. I’ll start talking about the Hallow, which is 2015 British / Irish horror movie that plays with the Irish folklore of the faeries. Now full disclosure, I like Irish shit. I like Ireland (both North and the Republic of). I really like Irish accents. In college I spent a significant amount of time pining after an Irish girl named Eimear. Add to that the fact that I usually really dig stories that are based on a real and rich folklore, and you’ve got yourself a stew going. A stew of a movie for which I was excited.

Jake: I like Irish stuff too. I am part Irish. And not the getting shitfaced on St. Patrick’s Day drinking beer with green food coloring while listening to Flogging Molly kind. Like there’s a good bit of Irish in my family and we get burnt to a crisp in the sun and eat cabbage and shit… Needless to say, when I first heard about the Hallow, I was similarly excited. Now I’ve seen the damn thing twice in the past few months and wrote about it twice. Spoiler alert, my feelings toward it did not change upon second viewing.

Jack: First off Jake, are you saying that you don’t get shitfaced on St. Patrick’s Day? Because I’ve got quite a few dead brain cells that would argue with you on that one . . . if they could. Because they’re dead you see. Because Jake and I drank too much on some St. Patrick’s Day. Good joke Jack! So our movie opens up and delivers all of the backstory that we need really quickly. Adam (played by Joseph Mawle), his wife Claire (Bojana Novakovic) and their infant son Finn are moving into a house in a remote Irish village. Adam is an ecologist or some other such scientist, and he’s there to study the trees in the forest. We are treated to some beautiful shots of Adam and Finn hiking through the forest. Great cinematography.

 
Ireland probably. We actually aren't sure where this was shot. What'd you want, research?

Ireland probably. We actually aren't sure where this was shot. What'd you want, research?

 

Jake: I think Adam is technically labeled as a “conservationist”. They’ve moved here from England (I think) and he is scoping the area for logging. He runs into an abandoned, decrepit cabin and finds a dead animal inside. It’s generally foreboding, and gives off the distinct vibe that whatever  happened in that neck of the woods was not cool and wholesome. So, naturally, he goes inside with his infant child and takes samples from the dead carcass.

Jack: As Adam and Finn are collecting strange Irish forest goo, Claire is sprucing up the house. Well I say ‘sprucing up,’ but what I mean is prying the heavy duty iron bars off of the windows. And getting menaced by the neighbor Colm (pronounced Collum), who says that she and her family shouldn’t be here, and that they should get out quickly. Colm is actually pretty creepy, and starts to establish a feeling of isolation. Also, not to brag, but ‘strange Irish forest goo’ was my nickname on the high school Lacrosse team.

Jake: The fuck was that your nickname? Story required, man. And yeah, one of the first problems I have with this movie is that the “something strange is going on here and we should probably bail before the proverbial shit hits the fan” meter is extremely high, extremely early. The strange, dark forest death and mysterious, menacing neighbors probably warrant keeping those bars ON the windows, guys. And while you’re at it you know what? Fuck it. Just go back to England.

Jack: Maybe man, but if I made us move every time I thought the neighbors were harboring a secret and there was death in the woods, my long suffering wife and I would have had to move like . . . 3 more times than the 3 times I’ve made us move for that reason. I think one of this movie’s strongest aspects by far is the acting and writing of Claire and Adam. They’re both really charming, and feel real. You relate to them instantly. Add in a 20-pound mass of squirming, shitting, and crying neediness (Finn), and you’ve got yourself some characters for whom you are rooting almost instantly.

Jake: Can’t disagree with you there. Aside from the writing making them hang out even though you know stuff is going south because #itsamovie, they are well acted characters. And for that matter, the acting in general is pretty great in this one. Colm is awesome. He does menacing really well because he doesn’t go overboard with it, and like Jack said, it helps isolate Claire and Adam from the beginning of the film. You know what else is good in The Hallow? The set design. The kitchen is really sticking out as a high point to me. It’s odd to say that its level of realism was noticeable because it's just a kitchen, but that’s exactly what happened. Maybe we are watching too many shitty movies these days...

 
Pictured: Genuinely good set design. Wow, no sarcastic joke there? Have we lost our edge?

Pictured: Genuinely good set design. Wow, no sarcastic joke there? Have we lost our edge?

 

Jack: Yeah, it’s hard to argue with you on that one man, that kitchen was put together so well that I almost believe the set designer had been in a kitchen before. It certainly looked better than another kitchen I remember seeing. Anyway, that night, there’s a crash in Finn’s room, and the lamp in there gets broken. They rush up and can’t find anything. They naturally suspect Colm. The way his name is spelled makes it hard to remember that his name was pronounced Collum. Although it’s a gaelic name, so I guess I should just be happy that is wasn’t pronounced “Franklin.”

Jake: The pronunciation is actually “Harold”. I know. I’m Irish, remember? Anyway, they do the natural thing and get the cops over to their place so they can take a look at the property damage. The police officer does a pretty good job of continuing to build the level of unease associated with their new home. He explains that shit happens in the forest and blames a bird for flying into the window, then quickly fills them in on the legend of The Hallow before bailing. Seems safe. Open and shut case.

Jack: When Adam and Finn go into town to get the window fixed, they find that the townie working the window shop is as unfriendly as Colm. He too tells Adam that they shouldn’t be there, and to stay the hell out of that damn forest. It’s interesting, because with just two characters, Colm and Window-Store McDoom-Prophesizer, the filmmakers made the whole town seem united against our heroes. It really gave a feeling of dread and isolation to this early part of the movie.

Jake: And then shit starts happening for real. On the way back from town Adam has some car trouble, and discovers his entire engine is crawling with vines and covered in mud. Next thing he knows? BAM! He’s in the trunk and a general ruckus begins outside the car. He pops his way out, grabs Finn and heads for home.

Jack: That scene is great. Frantic, frenetic, hectic, . . . other ‘ic’ words, the whole works! Eventually, he is able to make it home, where he finds a very terrified Claire. Colm has been back, again telling them to leave. The whole damn house has been ransacked, so the family decides it’s time to cheeze it.

 
 

Jake: Finally. Now I’m no sleuth, but I am pretty damn sure I would have put two and two together earlier than these yahoos. It’s something that persistently bothered me throughout the film, and in my individual review, I referred to it as “pacing”. I think that was probably a bad description but I was trying to keep it brief. The film doesn’t suffer from being too slow or have much issue with how it builds tension. I think the problem I had was more of a writing issue in that there was a disconnect between the overwhelming body of evidence that fucked up things are going on and the family’s level of urgency to remedy themselves of that threat. It’s really hard to put a finger on, but by the time they have been totally ransacked, it's overwhelmingly clear and comes as a relief that they decide to legit evacuate. Too bad it's too late and at this point forest monsters are just lobbing mud bombs all over the place and killing their dog. Yeah, the dog dies. At 53:55. This dog actually had a really good run.

Jack: And you know what? It didn’t even really die. Turn into Hallow-zombie monster? Check. Die? Not check. And on the subject of the Hallow, here we start to see a little more of the monsters. They’re kind of 85% zombie, 15% plant, all brown, california-raisin looking little guys. They don’t look particularly good, but they don’t look bad either. They clearly have vine and mud powers, as the car’s engine block is all the way vined-up. Much like that one chick in the Evil Dead. We get a pretty tense scene of Claire waiting to start the car as Adam frantically rips vines from various engine parts. The car isn’t going anywhere, but eventually they’re able to get away and once again cheese it back to the house. Adam, looking through the peep-hole, gets a vine-mud-needle right through the fucking eye from one of the monsters outside. It’s fairly gruesome, and definitely made me wince.

Jake: Yeah I don’t like eye things. It caught me off guard and stuck with me for a bit. Claire and Adam realize the creatures don’t seem to like light and it sets up a whole sequence where the power is cut and Adam and Claire are forced to separate so he can start the generator for backup electricity. It serves to create good tension and also sets in motion the final sequence of the film, as Adam tries to do the “smart” thing by hiding Finn from the creatures in a locked cupboard and pointing a light towards it. It seems kind of fucked up to place an infant into a cupboard and lock the door, and it made me wonder if Adam’s whole eye situation is starting to affect his brain. Regardless, it still doesn’t work and one of the creatures snags Finn and peels off into the night.

Jack: Before that though, Adam goes into the bathroom to look at his eye. I guess he’s trying to be all masculine or whatever, but fuck, I would have demanded my wife come right in to tell me the fuck was happening with my eye. Turns out, nothing good is happening with his eye, and rather than get help, Adam just slaps a makeshift eyepatch on there and calls it good. It reminded me a lot of that scene in District 9 when Wickus is hiding his alien illness and his fingernails turning all black and falling off and shit. A-Z Horror public service announcement time. If you get alien and/or monster goo and/or needles in any of your various orifices and start to experience weird sensations, ask for help. It’s just that simple.

 
 

Jack: A couple of things happend here. One was that Claire just sat put while a Hallow monster pointed a finger toward her eye so slowly that it was infuriating she didn’t movie her damn head. The other was that Adam falls through the now rotted house beams, and breaks the ever loving hell out of his leg. He also passes out. So Claire heads on out to rescue Finn, finds him floating in a murky pond, rescues him before he drowns, and brings him back home. Solid work. Unfortunately for the both of them, Adam has woken up, set his leg, and is all crazy monster paranoid, and claims that Finn is a changeling. Rather than let Adam stab Finn with a nail, Claire stabs him and grabs Finn and cheeses it once again. Lots of cheesing it in this thing. Gotta keep up… Anyway,  adam then proceeds to go full monster with it. He pretty much just turns into Spyke from the X-Men. Not Spyke from X-3, and not Quill either, but Spyke from the comics and that weird X-Men cartoon where they were all in high school.

See? And you thought Jack was lying.

See? And you thought Jack was lying.

Jake: Despite the fact that he is clearly turning into one of the creatures, he’s still conscious for the most part. In a last ditch effort, he decides he needs to go out there and give the creatures a piece of his mind. With his scythe. Which he sets on fire. It’s badass. I mean look at this shit:

 
Stylish and sensible.

Stylish and sensible.

 

Jack: It is so badass. And it’s really fun. But somehow in the moment, it doesn’t break immersion or ruin the seriousness or tension the movie has been building to. Claire, meanwhile, is on the run and first tries to go to Colm. He explains that there’s nothing he can do, though he seems very upset about his inability to provide assistance. It’s a strange shift in character as he was previously such an angry creep, skulking around their house in the dark.

Jake: Totally agree, and another example of the strange disconnect I felt in this thing. Colm explains that his daughter, Cora, was nabbed by the bastards some time ago. It’s kind of sad, but more frustrating in that it makes zero sense why he wouldn’t have just said that from the jump. He could have met them and explained that bad shit was in the forest and it had killed/transformed his daughter into a monster. Adam finds Cora in a cave with a baby. His baby? Maybe. Classic maybe-baby situation. The Hallow creatures wanted him for their family or some shit. He won’t have it and takes the kid, much to her chagrin, and leaves.

 
 

Jack: I liked that whole chunk a fair bit. Except the Colm part. You know what’s more effective than ominous doom-warnings? Saying “hey, so there’s plant-monsters in the woods and they’ll steal your loved ones and turn them into plant-monsters; true story.” Exactly as they were before, the Hallow monsters don’t look bad, but don’t look great either. It serves the movie just fine. Anyway Hallow-Adam grabs Finn1 and meets up with Claire and Finn2. The whole time he’s shrieking to scare off the other Hallow. He tells Claire to take the real Finn and yep, you guessed it, cheese it one more time. She sets down Finn2 and grabs Finn1. Why exactly? She could certainly grab both, it wouldn’t even be that hard. Finn2 hasn’t hurt her yet, so why not err on the side of caution and just sort out which one’s which after cheesing it for like the eleventh time.

Jake: Yep. Made no sense. Claire and Finn out of the picture, a dying Adam is able to see the imposter Finn explode in the sunlight as he lies mortally wounded on the forest floor. We then get a totally unnecessary scene of a truck pulling in and a lazy creature exploding in sunlight before it cuts to black. I didn’t get it. I mean I got it, environmentalism something or other, but the execution was pretty lazy.

Jack: Yeah man, that last scene is bad. Like, really bad. The CG of that damn changeling exploding in the sun looks like hot garbage on a humid day. It’s awful. But enough of awfulness, let’s rate this thing.

RATINGS (1-10):

For 1, think of how Kojita would rate being stuck behind glass while you're frontin': (get it? cause of environmental stuff)

 
 

For 10, think of how the Onceler would rate efficiently destroying forests:

STORY:

Jack: 6 - This is a pretty solid little story. I really like the novel use of a really cool and deep lore, but I don’t like that they don’t do all that much with it. Apart from that, the rest of the story serves the movie just fine, and moves things along without a trail of gaping plot holes.

Jake: 7.5 - This is one of the stronger aspects of the film in my opinion. As I mentioned in my review in the Cutting Room, old western folklore is an interesting and wildly underutilized topic in horror. There are a ton of possibilities out there and I really like that this movie went with Irish lore involving something other than leprechauns. For the most part, the big picture story was well done.

WORLD-BUILDING / IMMERSION:

Jack: 7 - This one’s a little tricky. There was an abundance of stuff that usually pulls me out of movies. The terrible House, MD-style representations of the cellular attacks, the not moving with the eye-needle coming at you, the shift in Colm’s character, etc. But hot damn if this thing sucked me in and held my attention despite that. It also built a gorgeous world and sense of place with the cinematography and the isolation the townspeople’s ire induces.

Jake: 5 - On one hand, there was great set design and from a visual standpoint, the world was believable. On the other, I’m slotting all the problems I had with believing the Point A - Point B of the film here, because of what it did to my immersion. There were several times I felt frustrated.

SCARE-FACTOR:

Jack: 5 - Look, this thing has some lazy jump scares. It has some good ones too though. Also it does an okay job of building tension in some parts, while having a creepy atmosphere in others. The needle in the eye was half-way decent gore too, if quick. All in all though, just not a particularly scary movie.

Jake: 4 - The tension in this film was generally well earned, but again, it had a tendency to frustrate me with the lack of urgency among its characters. It got so bad that I felt a little robbed of my concern for their well being towards the halfway point. It’s an issue because there were instances where I should have been scared for them, but was less impacted than I otherwise would have been had there not been some structural issues. Also. Lazy jumpscares happened. Cardinal sin.

EFFECTS (OR JUDICIOUS LACK THEREOF):

Jack: 4 - So the Hallow monsters look just okay. Not bad, not good either. The Spyke transformation, on the other hand, was pretty great. Honestly that transformation would have pulled this score up higher if not for two things: the CG in the changeling explosion at the end was fuck-awful; and honestly the fake baby they used all the time looked so absurdly fake. That takes it down.

Jake: 6.5 - I liked the look of the Hallow creatures more than jack. They looked sort of like mummified bodies that had been found in a peat bog. The CG was not particularly good, however.

OVERALL:

Jack: 7 - Call it a big tilt-factor, but I really enjoyed this movie. It’s just a fun watch. Now I also rated Honeymoon a 7, so I want to be clear: Honeymoon is the superior film. I think I honestly liked Honeymoon better. But what do you think this is, some sort of ‘overall’ rating that would indicate which movie I liked better? . . . What’s that? I have to go.

Jake: 6 - I gave it a 6 the first time I reviewed it and I’ll stick with it now. It’s a movie I would recommend to someone with 90 minutes to kill, but there are definitely other films I’d recommend more. It doesn’t do anything particularly great, but it isn’t a huge sinner on any front either.