Review: The Hallow, a Fantastic Creature Feature



The Hallow opens with a poem—cautionary couplets—a warning not to disturb the ancient and otherworldly. This faerie tale-esque intro is complemented by the film’s first images, that of a forest unlike most; the growth too vibrant, too lyrical to be inhabited by anything less than extraordinary. So it is. These creatures, mined from Irish mythology are stunning and frightening to both the world of The Hallow and contemporary horror. They are for the most part practically created and awesomely realized, a welcome throwback to FX glory and a refreshing new creature feature vision. 

Like a faerie tale, The Hallow is excitingly simple in construct and message: Nature isn’t ours, and if we are to disrespect it, it might well take away something that is. That established, the story of a conservationist, his wife and their newborn wastes little time becoming a feast of sight and sound. Even when its monsters aren’t overwhelming the screen, the rural Irish atmosphere is, captured beautifully by director Corin Hardy and cinematographer Martijn van Broekhuizen. The sound design is similarly rapturing, evocative of bump-in-the-night paranoia and the ever present distraction and worry of a small infant.

Of course, said child is a strong focus and point of tension, but The Hallow’s more classical aspects feel just that: time honored rather than old fashioned. Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare’s (Bojana Novakovic) baby isn’t cheaply used. Instead, the pressures of parenthood feel amplified as your new responsibility is always so, even when elder creatures intrude upon your life.

The aforementioned and sure-to-be celebrated monsters are teased by black goo and discussion of so-called “zombie fungus,” ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Their grand entrance however, revealing unsettling, woodsy beings (both two and four-legged, twitchy and not), comes in the form of a terrific car-set sequence as filled with visual misdirect as the treacherous sound work. Its punchline is perhaps even better, and what keeps The Hallow clever while telling a traditional tale. Faced with the creatures, there’s little time for rationalizing. “The Hallow is real,” Clare bluntly notes, and so we move on with the rest of this enchanting, if ghastly, scary story.

As The Hallow unfolds, it grows grimmer, its scares not only of a spooky sort, but visually visceral as well. The thrill of a massive, gnarled, practical creature hand mere inches from Novakovic’s face is undeniable for most horror fans. What’s fantastic is that isn’t fleeting, nor simply the result of a handmade quality. The creature work (from John Nolan, Daniel Burnett, Stephen Coren and more) is top notch and refuses to wear out its welcome thanks to smart imagery and monster variety. What’s more, your investment in Adam and Clare is real, building The Hallow to a most affecting, bittersweet and tonally proper finale for a frightening fable.

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Weekend: Oct. 24, 2019, Oct. 27, 2019

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