reviewed by sarah Cullen
Uh oh. Someone forgot to read the memo about working with kids and animals. Never mind though,
The Hallow just about works out all the same.
If one were to envisage an Irish faery tale for a modern audience, it would most likely be Hallow-
shaped. It’s dark, of course, because if The Dark Knight taught us anything it’s that dark equals good
and darker equals better. The faery folk are a lot less attractive than they ever appeared in celtic
mythology, and of course it remembers to name check NAMA a couple of times. The internet almost
certainly exists but the locals are stuck in a Synge play. To the films credit first time director Corin
Hardy does make some very innovative uses of eco-horror. In The Hallow he has created a likeable
and stylish new entry into the Irish-British horror genre which has some satisfactory moments of
surprise and gore.
The Hallow takes place somewhere in the spooky midlands of Ireland. It’s not quite the Ireland we
know; this is a place that has beautiful but deadly moors and heaths and fens all heaped more or less
on top of each other. It also has a distinct absence of i-phones or, indeed, any mobile phones (but
thankfully baby monitors can do in a pinch). Joseph Mawle plays Adam, a land surveyor brought in
from London to oversee a large logging project. His presence, along with that of his wife Clare
(Bojana Novakovic) and infant son, soon draws the attention of the locals, particularly Colm Donnelly
(Game of Throne’s Michael McElhatton). Donnelly appears none too pleased by the presence of
outsiders, particularly ones intent on decimating the surrounding forest land. He menacingly
recommends that the family stay away, warning them that his own daughter was kidnapped by the
faeries that haunt the forest. Soon after the family’s rural home is targeted at night, and Adam and
Clare begin to fear for their safety and that of their son Finn.
Things start happening in typical horror fashion. The dog is the first to notice that anything’s wrong.
Rotting animal carcasses start appearing. Violent microscopic spores start spreading. Things go
bump in the night. The film stumbles into Home Alone territory when Adam starts transforming the
house into a fortress. Where Hardy’s movie shows its potential is in its flourishes of ecologically
inspired horror. Some of the most inventive moments come from creative use of set pieces such as
the family’s country house which starts decomposing under the weight of what one character terms
“five hundred years of Irish sludge,” and Adam’s car out of which he literally has to fight his way.
Meanwhile the combined use of animatronics and CGI makes for some impressively menacing and at
times rather eerie faery folk; particularly impressive considering The Hallow’s small budget.
The cast, while perhaps not overly taxed, do a fine job. Despite an unfortunate scene which, as is
typical of the genre, sets up the two leads to be uncharacteristically inept – inebriating marijuana
use followed by seduction in a creaky old kitchen while your baby is probably being kidnapped,
anyone? – Mawle and Novakovic do decent jobs as terrorised homemakers, with Novakovic making
a very relatable mother in dire circumstances. The supporting cast is sadly underused. Michael
Smiley appears for a single scene as the local detective in which he establishes the difference
between city slickers and country bumpkins, while McElhatton is given little to do other than stare
bug-eyed and appear anti-social.
Extremely competent and at times rather inventive, Hardy’s debut should be a welcome new entry
for fans of British and Irish horror. It is slightly unfortunate that it has an after-credits sequence
which serves to undermine some of the nuances of the film (It also sadly tells us nothing about the
forthcoming Avengers sequel) but for much of its run-time The Hallow has much to say about the
horrors of our post Celtic Tiger environment and does so in an entertaining and visually appealing