The Hallow is written and directed by Corin Hardy, who has long been attached to the seemingly constantly in flux remake of The Crow, and stars Joseph Mawle (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) and Bojana Novokovic (Devil).
The Hitchens family: husband Adam (Mawle), wife Clare (Novokovic), and their dog and newborn baby, move into an old Irish mill house just shy of some woods in the middle of nowhere. Adam is eyeing up the trees for a deforestation company so is immediately unpopular with the locals.
When things start to go bump, and windows start to go smash, in the night, Adam and Clare automatically assume that the country folk are messing with them in an effort to get them to leave. The local Garda cop (Michael Smiley ? Spaced, Kill List) and his implausible theories for the disturbances seem to reinforce this, and also imply he?s in on it.
Spooky and superstitious neighbour Mr. Donnelly appears to be the prime suspect: frequently breaking into their home and leaving strange books about fairies, and spouting cryptic warnings to stay clear of the woods with the baby. That Donnelly is also played by Michael McElhatton ? the nefarious Roose Bolton from Game of Thrones ? makes it easy to believe he?s behind it and untrustworthy.
HOWEVER, The Hitchens?s have more to worry about than psycho locals. The forest is full of frightening folkloric creatures, called ?the hallow?, that are mad at Adam for sticking his nose into their trees, and have taken an interest in the baby. With these beasties coming for their kid, and the family cut off from any assistance, our heroes must batten down the hatches and try and survive until dawn. This, of course, does not go as planned.
Smiley and McElhatton are excellent, and it would have been nice for them to remain involved when ?the hallow? start to come out of the woodwork, but the creatures themselves are so well done that the human antagonists are swiftly forgotten. Seemingly done almost entirely through animatronics and prosthetics, ?the hallow? constantly deliver balls-shrivelling scares. They are kept in the shadows or out of focus for the first half, but when they fully emerge in a heart-stopping sequence to surround Adam and Clare they do not disappoint.
Mawle?s Adam is a logical and brave hero and gets to battle not just the monsters, but also to retain his own humanity. Supplied with an immensely vulnerable young family to protect, Mawle?s performance, and Adam?s actions, create some iconic moments ? with a descent into a tentacle-y hell with nothing but a flaming scythe sure to linger long in the memory. Clare is mostly underserved and predominantly useless ? always making the wrong call, and disrupting Adam?s efforts. The sole female role being this rubbery is a shame, but her one saving grace is in instantly believing in the creatures, and getting on the same page so we can crack straight on.
Corin Hardy has a great eye for unforgettable imagery, so you can certainly see why he is being tapped up for The Crow. Regardless of whether or not that actually ever happens, The Hallow is macabre and mysterious. It makes great use of atmosphere and music, spins recognisable tropes into something new and bizarre, and ?the hallow? are some of the creepiest and coolest original movie monsters to hit the screen in a while.