Thursday, November 5, 2015

High-level horror: Corin Hardy/Felipe Marino's scare-your-pants-off thriller, THE HALLOW

On one level, THE HALLOW, a new horror film from co-writer Felipe Marino and writer/director Corin Hardy, is nothing new, dealing as it does with a family -- mom, dad and infant son -- who moves into a new home and is menaced by supernatural powers. Ah, but what the moviemakers and their excellent cast do with this much-told tale is something else. It's all in the specifics and the straight-ahead style that brings those specifics to dread life. It has been awhile since TrustMovies found himself glued to the screen while watching such an old, old story.

Marino (above, left) and Hardy (above, right) get right down to things, as our couple and baby son (along with the family's dog, of course) travel to their new home while listening to the radio and hearing something about a not-so-popular sale of a local forest for clear-cutting. Our hero, Adam (played by Joseph Mawle below) has been hired to do some sort of scientific study regarding that forest, and, as he quickly learns, he is none too popular with the locals, who believe the place to be haunted by evil spirits that delight in stealing children. Oh-oh.

Perhaps the most annoying choice of moviemakers who come to these family-gets-haunted movies is to slowly build up a head of steam by having family members menaced in various ways by one thing after another until the audience is ready to scream, "Just get the fuck out of that place, you idiots!" Hardy and Marino easily and very cleverly side-step this completely by having bad things happen immediately and then escalate enormously before escape is even possible.

Some of the more interesting specifics on view includes a rather special kind of fungus (shades of the recent Creeping Garden!) with spores that do very naughty things to people and their animals (above), and one of the filmmakers' most effective moments comes as the fungus grows in and on an automobile, so that our hero must extricate himself from the trunk of his car in what becomes an odd and new sort of "birth" scene -- and a damned good one, at that.

Mr. Mawle over the years has become one of my favorite supporting actors -- versatile, riveting and sexy as hell. Check out his work in performances and movies as disparate as The Awakening, Heartless (which I think the still, above, is from, unless it's from the Netflix series Sense8) and especially Clapham Junction, and you'll discover an actor with a very special charisma. Up to now he has appeared mostly in supporting roles, so it's good to see him take on a lead and do it more than justice.

Performance-wise, the movie mostly belong to Mr. Mawle, although his wife, played by the beautiful Bojana Novakovic (above, left, and at bottom, doing a top-notch scream-queen job of it), provides terrific back-up in every way. The couple, the kid and their dog are pretty much the entire cast (except a few townspeople and those evil spirits).

The filmmakers make the mistake of showing their demons too soon and then too often. (The critters are much scarier when we can just barely perceive them.) But thanks to Mawle and Novokovic, we're on tenterhooks till the finale -- which proves just about everything you'd want in this kind of scary movie.

From IFC Midnight and running just a tad too long at 97 minutes, The Hallow, a hit at a number of film festivals, opens tomorrow, Friday, November 6, at IFC Center in New York City, and next Friday, November 13, in Los Angeles at Hollywood's Arena Cinema. Simultaneously, it is also available digitally via the usual platforms. Click here and then click on WATCH NOW to see the various digital venues.

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