The Hallow opens in a gorgeous Irish forest choked with moss. An English botanist has come here to study the trees on behalf of the government. He has brought his family and a light undercurrent of political tension and environmental controversy. The movie soon segues from green to black, as the botanist and his wife confront a homeowner’s nightmare: five hundred years of Irish sludge. Shortly thereafter it really gets underway. There is no faffing about with pointless questions like “Is there something out there?”, “Do the authorities believe us?”, and “Would you like a little exposition with your horror?” The Hallow has places to take you in this Irish forest. Put a pin in the light undercurrent of political tension and environment controversy. The Hallow will get back to that. Not until the credits are rolling and not in any meaningful sense, but it will get back to that.
When you ask the average American what horror movies most evoke Irish folklore, they’ll probably say Leprechaun, Leprechaun 2, Leprechaun 3, and Leprechaun in the Hood. They might not know that Ireland has a rich tradition of stolen children, malevolent woodland folk, and faeries that look and act nothing like Tinkerbell. The Hallow is at its strongest when it’s rooted in this folklore. You can feel it falter when it introduces a little science into its supernatural. I guess that’s what happens when your lead character is a botanist (played by Joseph Mawle, who was unforgettable as the devil in the weird 2009 deal-with-the-devil movie Heartless).
But The Hallow eventually goes full-on conventional by committing to latex, obvious music, cheap jump scares, slasher nonsense, lots of chasing around in the woods, and two (2!) instances of eye horror. Just before the credits roll, a jump scare will lunge right at the camera. You saw that coming, right? Because you could tell freshman director Corin Hardy lost his way about a half hour ago. For a better movie about this folklore, see The Daisy Chain with Samantha Morton. And for an American perspective on things that go wrong when civilization comes into ancient forests, I cannot recommend strongly enough Laird Barron’s superlative short story, The Men from Porlock.
The Hallow is currently exclusive to DirectTV. It will be available for VOD next month.