The Hallow review

When Adam and his young family move to a millhouse in Ireland so that he can work on an area of woodland, he upsets more than just the locals. Adam's interference with the forest rouses an ancient evil that will stop at nothing to exact its revenge.

There have been plenty of creature features lately, with vampires and werewolves always taking the centre stage, so it's refreshing to see Hardy's The Hallow break this trend and delve in to a monster that is a little bit different. When you think of fairies, sprites and goblins going bump in the night, you might laugh away the idea because you believe them to pose little threat. However, The Hallow proves that there is a type of evil, sinister fairy waiting on the edge of your nightmares and when it knocks, you probably shouldn't answer. For Adam, wife Clare and their little baby, however, it's too late to lock the doors and pray they go away.

The Hallow plays out like a supernatural home-invasion film, as we see Adam and Clare seek refuge in their house while under attack from demonic forest creatures. Sadly for them, their house offers no real protection because the banshees are already inside. Bolting down the doors and windows is not enough to save this family from the ghastly terrors that are after them. There are scenes that will get your skin crawling and moments of pure, utter terror as Adam feels the wrath of the woodland creatures he has trespassed against. Without giving too much away, those of you who enjoy body horror will find a lot of twisted pleasure as he experiences the most physical pain.

The Hallow is filled with unbearable tension that fast becomes genuinely frightening as we are thrown in to a relentless and unpredictable game of cat-and-mouse. While Adam battles his own literal demons, Clare must protect their baby. There are twists and turns within the narrative that have literally been pulled from the nightmares of those with children, but they also give The Hallow an opportunity to explore themes around the family and particularly the mother-child relationship. Clare is thrust in to a battle to save her baby and she must use her physical and emotional strength to protect what is dear to her. The film raises disturbing and chilling questions about identity, asking whether it's possible to not know your real baby as the tale draws on the myth of the changeling. The depth and quality of The Hallow's story is marvellous; it is an accomplished example of storytelling which is outstandingly directed.

Not only is The Hallow a technical achievement, but one that excels thanks to its great cast. From the mother and father portayed by Mawle and Novakovic, to their worried neighbour played by McElhatton, the film is bursting with sterling performances. There is a welcome cameo from Smiley who tells the family about their wrong-doings in a pitch-perfectly ominous manner, preparing us for the film's imminent terrors. It would have been great to see more from him, but as an addition to the sombre, errie tone he's the perfect choice to lay all the cards on the table for the family to see.

The story itself is grounded in reality and is reminiscent of films such as Pan's Labyrinth as Hardy fills every frame with beautiful shades of blues and greens, enhancing the idea that was is happening is natural; nature is taking its revenge on the family who stepped on the Hallow's ground and now they must pay. Guillermo del Toro would be proud as the film embraces an elegant and beautiful visual style, which becomes a stunning backdrop to the ugly events that are unfolding in the foreground. The cinematography is awe-inspiring and it is clear that care and intricacy were important during the making of The Hallow. It really is a work of horrifying art that reflects the gorgeous fairy-tale books that were undoubtedly drawn from as inspiration.

As stunning as it is terrifying, The Hallow is surely to be a modern creature feature classic and sets Hardy up as a horror director to watch. It would be a shame to miss this chilling and mature fairy tale, as they only come around once in a blue moon.

The Hallow at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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