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Review: ‘The Hallow’ finds its monster in Irish folklore (Includes first-hand account)

Urban legends and myths are often curated from generations of oral histories, enduring over the years as silly folktales or widely held superstitions. Most countries generally have their own lore specific to the region with some relating to vampires, werewolves and faeries – stories that were appropriated for books and movies over the years. In Ireland and nearby lands, the natural habitats of mystical creatures are guarded and often avoided to preclude any possible retaliation. Even so, an outsider to the area may not know or believe in the rules, which proves hazardous to everyone in The Hallow.

Adam (Joseph Mawle) and his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) just moved to a secluded cottage at the edge of the woods with their baby. The locals have been less than welcoming as Adam is employed by a company that intends to cut down the nearby forest. Warnings about the woods are snubbed as idle fear-mongering and the couple go on about their business of surveying the trees and removing iron bars from the windows, totally oblivious to the danger that lurks at their doorstep. Soon strange noises become damaged property and then outright home invasions. But by the time the couple is ready to believe, it might be too late.

It’s not often a story about fabled creatures is told with such an effectively tense atmosphere. From their earliest moments in the house, there’s an eerie feeling to it… the isolation, encroaching woods, rundown infrastructure and grave warnings from their concerned neighbour (Michael McElhatton). As Clare removes the heavy metal barricades, making their home the only one without protection, she never questions their purpose. It’s not long before the torment escalates; though blaming their angry neighbour is the simplest explanation for the disturbances — even when it’s not the most logical.

However, once they acknowledge they are being plagued by monsters, the story takes a very dark turn — aesthetically and tonally. The creatures hide in the shadows so they thrive at night, which is when the climactic attack occurs. Adam and Clare’s instincts to finally flee are correct, but it ultimately turns into a cycle of running and taking a stand that becomes somewhat repetitive. The faeries’ focus on the couple’s baby and their inability to trust each other enhances the already chaotic and stressful situation. Adam is severely affected by the creatures’ presence and their only guidance is from an old book that confirms what they already know (iron and fire are mentioned numerous times before they reach the weapons chapter) and sets up the next major plot point. In spite of some stumbles in the narrative’s development, it’s a solid horror picture that effectually makes a folktale real for audiences.

In fact writer/director Corin Hardy’s feature debut is so impressive, he was asked to helm The Crow reboot; but Relativity Media’s bankruptcy is just the latest hiccup delaying that project. The Hallow screened at the 2015 Toronto After Dark Film Festival.

Director: Corin Hardy
Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic and Michael McElhatton

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Sarah Gopaul is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for film news, a member of the Online Film Critics Society and a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved critic.

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