I think The Hallow is one of the most unique mother-nature-strikes-back movies I’ve ever seen, using fairy myth deconstruction to get its point across that if you fuck with Mother Nature it will strike back in a most insidious way forcing you to walk forever in her shoes so you can see the error of your ways. It’s not a fun prison sentence by any means, but sometimes extreme measures need to be taken and in this case being made into one of The Hallow is pretty goddamn extreme. The problem is this particular strike back doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if you’re actually a “good person,” venture into their domain and you will suffer. Let’s put it this way, if you find yourself in Ireland, in this neck of the woods, and in the crosshairs of The Hallow, and it looks like there truly is no way out for you, if you have a gun on hand, use it on yourself.
On a less grimmer train of thought The Hallow reminded me of two other movies with similar plots I liked: The New Daughter (2009) and Deep In The Darkness (2014). All three movies revolve around a family moving into a new house in a new town surrounded by woods that’s the abode of ancient beings that seek to take something away from the family, generally a family member for some heinous purpose. In The New Daughter it was a father, a daughter and a son up against “mound walkers,” this diminutive race of creatures who were in abundance in ancient times but are now dwindling and they seek a human girl to mate with and herald in a new generation. In Deep In The Darkness it was a father, a mother and a daughter returning to the wife’s hometown where the populace is slave to ancient “wildmen” who live deep underground in the woods. The ancients in this movie are also looking to get back on top of the food chain for they too are dying out.
Looking beneath the obvious similarities the situation in The Hallow is very different, and ten times more sinister than the previous two movies. A family of three moves into this old house in Ireland, but they aren’t moving there for their health. Adam (Joseph Mawle) has a job to do; he works for a logging company that has been allowed by the country to log and Adam is the guy they send in to evaluate the timber. Yup, you can see the writing on the wall there. Nothing good ever comes from logging ancient lands. Claire (Bojana Novakovic) is his wife and what makes this family different from the ones from those other two movies is that they have a newborn, which is the main reason this movie was more tense inducing than New Daughter and Darkness. There are many times the baby is put in danger. The lore of these woods involves fairies and their love of stealing babies and putting changelings in their place. With The Hallow director Corin Hardy wants to give us some scientific biological reasoning for fairy lore. In it are shades of The Thing (1982) and this real life fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, found in the tropics that routinely likes to infect ants and turn them into “zombies,” so to speak. The beings known as The Hallow are similar in this regard. Once targeted and they get close enough they will sting you, infect you and turn you into one of them, adding you to their numbers.
The townsfolk know nothing of there biological cycle only that you don’t invade their forest and if you do you’re fucked. The neighbors don’t like Adam and his family being there because they know his purpose and want him to leave well enough alone. His closest neighbor Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton) had a daughter who went missing in the woods and we eventually see what happened to her. There’s no exact time frame given how long it takes for you to totally transform. I got the sense Colm’s daughter had been missing for quite some time, but when seen in the movie she isn’t as mutated as the others, still displaying long hair and wearing cloths, but with face and hands that were pure Hallow.
Adam discovers their origin early on without knowing it. He finds a dead deer in a dilapidated farmhouse deeper in the woods with wounds and protuberances on the neck and face that are clearly not mammalian. Even the casual viewer will pick up on this, and these needle like protuberances ooze fluid. He takes a sample back to the house to analyze under a microscope and this is where we get an obvious The Thing (1982) homage as we see these “foreign cells” take over and transform nearby cells into an exact copy of it.
When they moved in the windows and doors were barred by strips of iron. Iron burns “fairy” skin and removing them was an unintentional invitation for The Hallow to come on in and pull up a chair. Well, they don’t do that, but they do harass the family by throwing things through their windows in the beginning and invading the actual house when the fairy shit finally hits the fan. The route of infection lies in these needles they have in their fingertips and once Adam is infected during their home invasion you pretty much get the feeling this whole thing is leading to a grim finale.
I haven’t listened to the commentary yet but at one point I think they try to replace the baby with changeling (UPDATE: Yes, Hardy confirms this was an attempt at a changeling). There’s fairy fungus in the attic that routinely leaks into the lower part of the house and this leak just so happens to be over the baby’s crib. A couple of days later while changing the crib, Claire finds goo and this “thing” wrapped up in the sheets. No idea what it was, a carcass? I don’t know, but it had me thinking of Invasion Of The Body Snatchers. Claire had no clue what it was either, she just scooped it up quick and threw it in the trash. However, their baby does at a later point get replaced with a changeling and we learn later from half transformed Adam they wanted the baby for their family.
This is a tense as fuck movie with the tensest scenes being with the stolen baby where Claire goes after the thing that took little Finn. In the final act we even get a baby changeling death scene, which I think is a first for cinema, the baby burns, and pops, and bursts into dead, dried fungal matter when sunlight hits it.
In the final act when Claire is on the run through the woods with the changeling (keeping in mind at this point she has no idea the baby in her arms is a Hallow) she runs into the village seeking help, pounding on doors, and is confronted by a shotgun wielding Colm who wants no part of what she’s going through and tells her to get lost because he doesn’t want her to bring these things around his home. If you’ve seen Pumpkinhead (1988) there’s a similar scene of the surviving teens looking for a safe haven but being turned away by the locals who know Pumpkinhead’s on the prowl.
Stay with the film during the first half of the end credits where you’ll see an indeterminate time later the logging company has come and begun decimating the forest. In a final shot we see a truck pulling away full of stripped trees ready to be shipped anywhere and they’re stained with the same transforming, black ooze that would transform any human into a Hallow. That reminded me of the end of Eli Roth’s Cabin Fever (2002) final scene as tanker trucks pull out of town with the contaminated water. So, conceivably we could have a sequel to The Hallow some day.
The special effects are primarily all practical with only slight CGI augmentation, which you’ll see in the little needles that pop out of their opening finger tips, a blinking eye, some infected skin on a shoulder, little things like that. And this is the first film I’ve seen with Concept Art photos of the creatures included on the disc with those photos looking exactly like the final product in the movie. Generally other concept art I’ve seen for other monster movies shows much cooler creatures than what was realized in the final film. Not so here. So hats off to special effects artist John Nolan for realizing some impressive practical creatures! Well, in the doc and one of the featurettes, Director Hardy said he was looking for the equivalent of Stan Winston, Rob Bottin, and Rick Baker and he certainly found the guy.
This coming April 5th The Hallow gets released stateside through Shout! Factory’s genre sub-label, Scream Factory, in separate DVD and Blu-ray editions!
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.35:1 high definition widescreen—2.0 English DTS-HD Master Audio, 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio—English & Spanish subs.
Extras included . . .
- Audio Commentary With Director Corin Hardy
- Surviving The Fairy Tale: Making The Hallow(50:40)
- Behind The Scene: The Story (2:37)
- Behind The Scene: Influence (2:03)
- Behind The Scene: Practical FX (2:18)
- Director’s Storyboards (1:37)
- The Book Of Invasions Original Illustrations (2:48)
- Director’s Sketchbook (3:17)
- Creature Concepts (:43)
- Theatrical Trailer
Just so you know those short Behind The Scenes featurettes are just excerpts taken from the hour long Surviving The Fairy Tale doc, which I highly recommend watching, if you’re one of those people who loves knowing how a film goes from conception to final product. Other interesting factoids, the movie was conceived and filmed under the title The Woods and it took Hardy eight years to get it made.