31 Days of Halloween — Day 2: The Hallow (2015) — by Dr. Shock

31 Days of Halloween - The Hallow 2015

Editor’s note: Dave “Dr. Shock” Becker is a host on Horror Movie Podcast, Universal Monsters Cast and Land of the Creeps horror podcasts. He is also the mastermind behind DVDInfatuation.com, a movie review blog where he is watching and posting one review every day until he reaches at least 2,500 movie reviews. Follow Doc on Twitter: @DVDinfatuation.

Steeped in Irish folklore, “The Hallow” is an intensely engrossing creature feature. But more than anything, this 2015 movie is proof-positive that, even in the computer age, there’s still plenty of room for practical effects.

Hired by a logging company to survey a lush Irish forest, Adam (Joseph Mawle), along with his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and their infant son, Finn (Wren Hardy), takes up residence in a remote cottage on the edge of the woods. Despite some local opposition, as well as a cryptic warning from their nearest neighbor Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton) to stay out of the forest, Adam carries on with his work, and while doing so discovers the woods are home to an unusual fungal-based parasite, one so strong it can control the mind of anyone it infects.

But as the young family will soon realize, the forest harbors even greater dangers, and while common sense might tell them that ancient folklore is the stuff of fantasy, some fairy tales should be taken very seriously.

The opening scenes of “The Hallow,” which include Adam’s survey of the forest and his exploration of an abandoned house in the middle of the woods, are beautifully handled by cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen, and establish just how isolated Adam and his family are from the rest of the world.

As for its story, writer / director Colin Hardy sets it up wonderfully at the outset; along with Adam’s discovery of the parasitic fungus, the young couple learns that Donnelly’s adolescent daughter Cora vanished in the woods years earlier, and he is convinced she was taken by the forest’s creatures (Changelings, Fairies, Banshees, etc.).

The second half of The Hallow is more action-oriented and takes place over the course of a single night, when Adam and Clare figure out for themselves that Donnelly’s “monsters” are not only real, but also trying to kidnap their infant son, Finn! At this point, the ominous tone that director Hardy had been building in the film’s first half becomes all-encompassing, reaching a fever pitch as Adam and Clare fight to keep their child safe from the onslaught.

Yet, for me, the film’s most noteworthy accomplishment is that its various monsters were created via practical effects. Drawing inspiration from Ray Harryhausen as well as the horror films of the ‘70s and ‘80s (Alien, The Thing, Evil Dead II), Colin Hardy relied heavily on practical effects throughout “The Hallow,” and the skillful work done by his team brought the creatures convincingly to life.

In addition, this approach helped make the entire movie more powerful (and more frightening) than it might otherwise have been (using practical instead of CGI allowed the actors to physically interact with the monsters, bringing an intensity to the performances that might have been lost had the characters and creatures been spliced together on a computer screen).

This, along with a few interesting plot twists (including one that calls Adam’s sanity into question) and even a healthy dose of body horror, makes “The Hallow” one hell of an effective monster flick, not to mention a movie that every fan of practical effects should stand up and applaud.

—Dr. Shock

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15 thoughts on “31 Days of Halloween — Day 2: The Hallow (2015) — by Dr. Shock


    Day 02 – It Comes At Night (2017)

    As 2017 nears the end, I believe the most controversial horror movie of the year would go to the A24 (The VVitch, Green Room, The Blackcoat’s Daughter) distributed film, It Comes at Night. I can remember when I first saw the trailer as a preview before some theatrical movie, I was pretty pumped. It gave off the vibes that it would be 2017’s version of The VVitch. However, after it was released, there were a lot of conflicting opinions on the quality of the film. I do believe it’s entirely fair to say that the film was inaccurately marketed as a more traditional horror film. Starting with the title, “It Comes at Night”, would naturally lead everyone into believing that something was going to come to the house at night to bring the horror. That never happens nor do most of the horror scenes from the TV spots/trailers since those images of black blood and demonic looking people comes only in the dreams of one of the characters. Yet, despite the fact that there’s very little action, there is horror.

    The scares of the film comes directly from the paranoia that comes from knowing, or at least believing, that there’s a deadly disease out there. It’s essentially a zombie movie, but without the zombies being around. This allows the film to have its horror be more realistic than a traditional horror. I can’t relate to a movie with a bunch of zombies roaming the lands, but I can put myself in the shoes of characters whose fear and paranoia is threatening everyone around them. A big part of the strength of the film comes from the fact that the viewers and the characters are not entirely confident in what’s going on. The big turning point of the film comes from the fear that the young boy, Andrew, may be infected. Yet, the film never explores whether or not Andrew is actually infected. When he wakes up crying, leading to the big confrontation at the end of the film, it’s very possible Andrew is crying because the disease is painful, but it’s also just as likely that his father, Will, was telling the truth that Andrew had simply woken from a nightmare.

    Since the risk are so high in the film, it causes normal characters to act beyond what was once normal for them. The main character of Paul used to be a history teacher. Now this new world has transformed him into a monster who acts first and maybe asks questions after the fact. Even something as simple as a possible miscommunication in Will clarifying that a story was about his wife’s brother and not his own, leads Paul to noticeably shut down emotionally with Will. This only builds up to the finale where Paul commits one truly heinous act, on top of several other ruthless decisions. All this from paranoia that he’ll never know if he was justified. Paul’s actions throughout the film is the height of the horror all because he’s not a Freddy Krueger where he’s purposely trying to ruin lives, he’s simply a man who is trying to protect his family, but in doing so, he’s lost his humanity.

    Besides the marketing of the film, the other aspect of the movie that I can understand viewers being upset over is the avoidance of the traditional horror. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie where the script goes so far out of its way to avoid tackling “The things that go bump in the night”. The best example would be when the family dog is seemingly attacked at the top of a hill in the woods, but rather than allow Travis to chase after his dog to find out what happened to it, Paul puts his foot down and demands that everyone returns to the house. The traditional horror was literally right there at the top of the hill, but we don’t get to see it. The film also doesn’t care to answer many of its questions, being completely comfortable with leaving them be. Since I was so emotionally invested in this dramatic tale of these two families attempting to come together, but the paranoia tearing them apart, I was okay with the lack of answers. Ultimately, the answers aren’t what truly matters in It Comes at Night. Can I blame anyone for being upset about that though? Absolutely not.

    Overall, I have to applaud writer/director, Trey Edward Shults, for his vision of It Comes at Night. It would have been a lot more simple to have a more typical beastly freaks sort of movie, but he instead wanted to focus on the fragile relationships of everyone in the film. The acting is great and the movie is not afraid to go there in terms of the intensity. It’s a depressing movie to watch, but it’s also one I kept thinking about well after I finished watching it. It Comes at Night is well worth watching IF you’re satisfied with slow pace films that more closely resembles the talking farm scenes on The Walking Dead rather than the actual scenes with the Walkers.

    Rating: 8/10

  2. Excellent review as always, Doc.

    This is a film that I really need to revisit. I remember liking it but I feel like given my predilection for practical effects, creepy forests and folkloric monsters I should have LOVED it. I do remember being super impressed by the practicals and I certainly didn’t have any specific complaints so I get the feeling that I just wasn’t in the right mood for this at the time I watched it.

  3. The Hallow is on my list for October, perhaps I should watch it tomorrow with your comments in mind. I’m now looking forward to it more than I was given my love of practical effects.

  4. Day 2. Troll 2.

    A sweet, city family takes part in an implausible house-swap, and finds that the town of Nilbog isn’t the relaxing vacation spot they expected. This 1990 film features: a nonsensical plot; appalling acting; rubber masks; green goop and humans turning into vegetation.

    Yet something in this ridiculous film is still charming.
    Is it the nostalgia for Garfield, GI Joe and permed hair? I don’t know. I only know that this film is rubbish, but I don’t hate it. It’s not scary, it’s not funny (to me) but it has a good heart and I’ve definitely seen worse.

    I’m rating it 3/10. That’s 1 point for originality, 1 point for effort and 1 for silliness. After the “sexy” popcorn scene, I can’t tell HMP listeners to avoid it, just… don’t spend any money to see it 😉

  5. Hi Dr. Shock, I’ve been listening to you for a couple years now on Horror Movie Podcast and Land of the creeps. I love all of your reviews. I didn’t really love The Hallows though. Maybe I need to rewatch it. Sometimes it takes me a couple watches to really get a movie. Are you going to be at the meet up? It would be really cool to meet you there. I did a review of The Hallow a couple months ago on my YouTube channel kind of a fun review. If you want check it out at “genes reviews regulardude” on YouTube. Excuse the bad editing, I’m still learning. Lol

    • Hey Gene! So glad you’re enjoying the podcasts and thanks for the kind words. And yes, , I will be at the meet-up. Look forward to meeting you there!

      I will definitely check out the YouTube video as well. All the best!

  6. Excellent review, Dave. So glad you enjoyed The Hallow. As you know, it was a favorite of mine a couple of years ago. Very eager to see how Corin Hardy handles the Conjuring universe with The Nun.

  7. hey all…I know I said I was going to wait until the end but I saw a movie tonight I thought I should mention. I knew nothing about it prior to watching, 2017’s Happy Hunting. It is a modern take on The Most Dangerous Game or more recently Turkey Shoot. The Main character, Warren, is on the run from a drug deal gone bad in which 2 people are killed. Warren stops at a small town known for their “hunting” where through his dealings with a local, gets caught up in a sadistic hunting game, in which he and others are hunted by locals. I know, a bad synopsis, but bear with me. Is it a masterpiece? No. Is there too much bad CGI? Yes. Do you really care about the characters? Not really. It has many faults but it managed to somehow keep my interest. The main character, played by Martin Dingle Wall, does a good job for this type of movie, and Gary Sturm does a good job as a sheriff with an agenda. I love survival type movies, and in that respect, it had me. Just enough violence and intrigue to keep me, and I liked the ending. Perfect, far from it but worth a watch. 6.5/10 a strong rental for a rainy afternoon!

  8. Graveveyard Shift (Day 2)

    Based on the short story my Stephen King, Graveyard Shift is a 1990 horror film. Directed by Ralph Singleton, and starring Stephen Macht and David Andrews. Macht plays the unscrupulous foreman of a run-down textile mill, Andrews a drifter recently hired to run the basement cotton-picker. The season is a humid summer, so hot and stifling that the mill can only be run during the Graveyard shift. As Memorial Day approaches, several of the non-union employees are offered a double pay opportunity to help clean out the sub-basements of the rat-infested mill.

    Not the best or most grounded story, Graveyard Shift has a distinctive B-Movie ascetic and seems to depend far more on developing a mood and feeling than anything else. this is a dirty, grimy, disgusting little film that drips with sweat. You can practically smell the rot and mildew that has to run through the building- the rats and their grimy bodies almost seem to crawl out of the screen and pass over your bare toes in the wee hours of the night. It’s blatantly nasty and Macht’s over the top performance is the perfect cherry on top of this ridiculous creature feature.

    6.5 out of 10.

  9. Day 2: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958)

    Attack of the 50 Foot Woman came out in 1958 amid UFO mania and cold war fears of massively destructive weapons. This film uses those fears for plot points but the most prevalent theme in this film is the exploration of the modern woman (well, 1950’s modern).

    Allison Hayes stars in a gender swapping role as a wealthy woman with a cheating husband who is after her money. After an encounter with a UFO she starts to grow giant and gets revenge on her husband (William Hudson).

    I was pleasantly surprised by the alien aspect in this independent film but the effects are pretty poor. The giants are transparent against the background and the close ups of her hand look like bad paper mache. The “attack” of the 50 ft woman is disappointing compared to the great poster art.

    This film is a bold idea for the time and even with the poor production quality and outdated feminist views I had a blast watching it.


    P.S. This film has been on my watchlist for a while but I prioritized watching it after Doc’s hilarious story of the poster.

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