Star Rating:

The Hallow

Actors: Alan Archbold, Padraig Mac Cathmhaoil, Seamus Mac Cathmhaoil

Release Date: Friday 13th November 2015

Genre(s): Horror

Running time: 97 minutes

Irish horror has thrown up some decent ones of late and The Hallow stands up to other recent outings Citadel and The Canal. While those were set in an urban landscape, The Hallow follows the path forged by Isolation and Wake Wood (which, like this debut from Corin Hardy, is also produced by Brendan McCarthy and John McDonnell) by taking things rural.

English tree surgeon Adam Hitchens (Mawle, Kill Your Friends) moves his wife Clare (Novakovic) and baby Finn to a remote forest setting somewhere in the middle of Ireland. Something is afoot from the off: landlord Colm (McElhatton) doesn’t want them on the land, warning that something lurks in the woods and their baby is at risk. Dismissing this as folklore and superstition, Adam goes about his work and finds in the skin of a dead deer a particular type of fungus that infects the host, turning it into some kind of zombie-like creature. It isn’t long before Adam isn’t feeling well and that something in the woods creeps nearer the house...

Corin Hardy (at the time of writing attached to direct the Crow reboot), graduating from a number of horror shorts, works hard to instil a moodiness with his slow, creeping camera before windows start to break, doors slam and floorboards upstairs creak. Hardy is more after an unsettling mood than boo moments but there are a few standout horror sequences - Mawle, trapped in the boot of his car, scrapes a hole in the backseat to get to a bawling Finn before unseen figures, pounding the glass, get to his son; Novakovic batting down the attic door as a tentacle of some sort edges through a crack in the trap door and slowly makes for her eye.

What it tries to say about colonialism - an English couple on Irish soil are made feel unwelcome by the locals, Michael Smiley’s guard turns up to say something about occupation and there being "a different kind of bogeyman up north", and Novakovic mumbles something about eight hundred years of grime and filth in the house - gets a little lost. It could have also found something about this malevolence outside being a manifestation of the problems at the heart of the marriage, something to flesh out the characters. And Finn is the most chilled baby since Jesus.

But the special effects are nifty, Mawle and Novakovic are great and there are enough unexpected turns in the final act to ensure one is never quite certain how this will turn out. Impressive stuff.