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‘The Hallow’ Shapes Irish Folklore is Creature Feature Fun

Much of the horror is drawn from Irish folklore, the film taking the darker aspects of fairy legend and shaping them into the best kind of monster movie fodder.

The Hallow comes to us from Ireland. Usually, when it comes to low-budget horror movies nowadays, it doesn’t really matter from where the movie comes. A lot of it has become interchangeable, plenty of movies content with just doing the same things over and over again. But The Hallow actually takes advantage of elements unique to Irish legend, and puts it all into the shape of a creepy little creature feature. And once this movie gets going, it never loses its momentum.

Adam has just moved his family to a little cottage in the middle of the Irish wilderness. He pays little mind to the warnings of the locals about trespassing into the forest, and goes about his daily work studying the trees. It turns out, of course, that the locals are right. Supernatural creatures from the forest have taken offense to his mucking about on their turf, and intend to do Adam and his family harm. Adam and his family fight for their lives and try to survive the night as the creatures lay siege to their home.

The movie starts out pretty slowly, keeping things vague for the most part. A radio broadcast talks about some sort of economic deal that involves the woods that's facing some political backlash. The film doesn't exactly make clear what Adam is doing in the woods, content with the hazy justification of him being a scientist. And while it isn't ideal, it works well enough for the story. It doesn't bog itself down with too many details, and whatever point the film has about environmental destruction is ultimately playing second fiddle to other concerns. It's mostly just setting the stage for the chaos that follows.

And once things get hairy, the movie just doesn't stop. It doesn't have to deal with the common horror movie problem of the protagonists sticking around much longer than they ought to. These heroes are stuck fighting for their lives, besieged on all sides with creatures with evil intentions. And the film makes things even more difficult for them with a plot development that starts pitting the heroes against each other. Much of the horror is drawn from Irish folklore, the film taking the darker aspects of fairy legend and shaping them into the best kind of monster movie fodder. But it never forgets to make the danger personal, to give it weight beyond the immediate need for survival.

A good mix of digital and practical effects make this film a pleasure to watch. The creatures are properly icky, the film's overall sense of design giving emphasis to all matter of physical wrongness. Director Corin Hardy has talent for staging horror, the movie offering plenty of creepy moments that go well beyond the usual startling of modern examples of the genre. The movie also benefits greatly from a solid cast. Joseph Mawle is especially compelling in the back half of the film, as his character goes through something genuinely horrifying. Bojana Novakovic is also excellent as his wife Claire, who is given the toughest choices in the film.

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The Hallow is a solid little creature feature. It could have gotten off to a quicker start, and it might have tried a little harder to make its bigger themes work. But one must really credit the film for being so entertaining. It doesn't do anything fancy: it just sticks people in the middle of the woods and has them fighting off creatures. It's a basic setup we've all seen before, but the movie makes compelling embellishments to the formula through its folkloric connections, and executes it with both solid craft and a good instinct for the horrific.

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The Hallow
Horror
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