Review: The Hallow

A family who moved into a remote mill house in Ireland finds themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.

I would say The Hallow is a new take on fairies but to be fair to the film it’s actually just going back to Irish folklore roots and showing us what these fairies are like. And they’re a long way from Tinkerbell that’s for sure.

The old adage of a family moving into a new house somewhere remote and the locals in the area look on suspiciously is utilised here as the film’s set up. Set in the Irish woodlands, the location for The Hallow is stunning and what is hidden in amongst the sturdy trunks and rustling leaves of the eerie woods is where this film distances itself from the normal haunting the generic set up provides.

The film has been touted as one of this year’s scariest and so my expectations going into it were high which when it comes to horror is always a mistake as if you expect scary and don’t get it then you can find yourself unfairly holding it against the whole film. However I don’t think this is something I can genuinely label with The Hallow. Whilst I may have found the scares lacking, it is very competently made (the director has been chosen the resurrect The Crow although this is currently in development Hell) and am sure there will be some jumps and tense moments for plenty of people. Maybe just not a seasoned horror crowd.

The build up through the first half of the film kicked along a little slowly at times and with all the secrecy being purveyed by the supporting characters you felt there was going to be more to the story than there eventually was. However it still had its moments and was an enjoyable watch. But when the second half bears its teeth and the secrets start to become known I felt the film moved from indie horror to generic studio movie making. The same issue, which is prevalent in films such as The Descent and Jeepers Creepers, where the reveal actually decreases the tension rather than the opposite is at play here. The fairies are, for me, just not scary.

For its incredibly modest budget the team behind The Hallow have really done a fantastic job. It looks exceptional and far exceeds what you would normally see at this level. Whilst I have picked on its flaws, The Hallow is far from being a bad film and I did enjoy watching it. It just lacked that something extra to elevate it from average to really memorable. If a horror films stays with me after I walk out of the screen then it has done its job and will have be wanting to go back for seconds but more often than not when the lights go up I have a stretch, get up, leave and that’s that. Sadly this was the latter experience. It will find an audience and it will have a number of people that love it. I’m just not one of them. I liked it.

Watch, enjoy, forget.

One of the discovery screen ‘hot tickets’ of this years fright fest The Hallow is heading to uk Cinemas this November. It is a strange misnomer of a film, the effects are good, the cinematography is top-notch and the folklore basis of the forest in the film (which was entirely made up for the movie) could easily be hundreds of years of old.

But the script? The story felt weak and somewhat predictable. As for theme, beyond the mythical forest folk it was a total mismatch of ideas – displaced city folk, grumpy locals, zombieish-stuff, body horror, then finishing with the total non-surprise of placing the kid in danger. The third act was pretty much summed up by Mark after the screening as ‘run away from the house…run back to the house… run away from the house’ and he is totally right. At times it felt like they were padding to fill time before the finale. Characters act illogically and against rational behaviour – even for the situations they are placed in. As a story, it was all just a little disappointing compared to the visuals and production quality of the film.

The actors because of this aren’t given much to play with, Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic work well as a couple and are given a few nice pieces of interaction and dialogue early on in the film. I did feel someone sorry for Michael McElhatton who played Donnelly, the local farmer and ‘story teller’. Unfortunately the part was so basically used as a plot driver he could of easily been cast as ‘angry local’. It’s a shame as you can see the entire cast are very good actors and capable of much stronger performances than those delivered in the Hallow.

Script aside, for the first two acts the film bounces along at a reasonable pace. It’s when the film enters its third act and people start running round the woods aimlessly it all falls apart a bit. But even with all of this I found myself somewhat liking the film, it was gorgeous and the creatures and ways in which the forest came alive were brilliantly executed, it was just missing something to hold it all together a little more coherently.

There are a lot of good little bits of the film and some sections I found creepy and liked a lot. In others I was just left staring at the characters wondering ‘why would you do that?’ (especially the farther). Ultimately while it looks good and is worth a watch if you can catch it, it certainly isn’t a bad or dire film by any stretch of the imagination.  For me it was a decent film that was also a bit of a let down.


Great expectation and advance word can often misfire with a horror audience. Last year the really rather special Babadook fell foul of a misleading publicity campaign that left many fans ( including me) let down. This isn’t the issue here, rather there was a weight, a burden placed on The Hallow by some very positive advance word from festival showings/previews. That first time writer/ director Corin Hardy has managed to create something that hasn’t caused horror fans to throw old fruit and rotten eggs ( metaphorical) is a positive start, but does the film live up to the great advance reviews. Well in a word, yes. And no.

I know, that’s two words.

The scenario is one that is familiar. A family move into an old isolated house, the locals warn them that they shouldn’t be here, a creature/ creatures are discovered and disturbed and the family must fight for their lives. Of course, so often within the genre it’s not the plot that is original as much as the telling. Here, the English family have moved into a house in the woods in Ireland due to the husband’s job in the forest where he is tracking a mysterious black ooze that is appearing on the trees. This leads to possibly the most irresponsible father committed to film ( seriously dire, unsafe driving and hiking alone through a forest without any mobile signal, and some seriously dodgy decisions made under pressure, this guy truly seems to be in the running for an intervention by social services) trespassing on the hallow of the title. In return the monsters of the film want the couples young baby.

The opening third of the film builds the tension nicely and visually the film looks gorgeous throughout. Having monsters based on Irish folklore certainly makes for something different but as with most effect heavy creatures less is more. The director here reveals too much of the creatures which ultimately makes them less effective. Where I felt the piece failed was in the script. In the last third of the film the family seek refuge in their house, then flee it, then return to it, then leave it again. Quite frankly it all became a little tedious and the film that had successfully built a real sense of unease in its first half ultimately seriously needs a rewrite in its second half.

Despite all of my issues there is still enough to commend this film, I just wish that someone had tightened up the script and reduced the numbers and appearances of the creatures. What we have here is visually striking and shot with a certain flair that ultimately is worth a watch but doesn’t have enough to leave a lasting impression.

What is it with Irish horror films being so dull and blatantly shite? I was hoping that THE HALLOW was about to change that point of view and for a while it does. Opening with a family moving to a remote house in the woods, we learn that there is something in the woods that doesn’t want them there. So far so good, remote house, scary creatures and a sense of being truly trapped by the isolation of it all. The first part of this movie really works well and at times it did scare me, the noise of the creatures and the viciousness of which they attack all serve to make for a good movie.

However it all goes badly wrong as this movie just seems to totally lose the plot completely, what starts off as some great creature feature in a brilliant setting descends into a complete farce as the critters are scared of light and quite randomly, iron objects. That truly is a first for me. Best get out the pots and pans then…

I went from viewing this as something with potential to ending up wishing it would end. Once we got to the baby swapping scenes in the woods I was beyond caring and despite being impressed by the creatures and how they looked and moved, that us about as far as I can say anything positive about the last half of this film.

It feels like a good idea went to s**t and it just feels frustrating and an opportunity missed. The initial set up worked so well but it just didn’t maintain the momentum and it lost my interest by the end. Another example of why Irish horror movies should be consigned to the scrapheap and never be made again.


The Hallow is at selected cinemas from 13th November 2015




79 thoughts on “Review: The Hallow

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