The Hallow—filmed in Ireland with support from the Irish Film Board—was directed and co-written by English director Corin Hardy. It’s a co-production of Ireland and the UK and we watched it on Amazon Prime.
You might not know this—I certainly didn’t—but more than half the forests in Ireland are owned by a company, which is owned in turn by the Irish government.
In the early years of the decade, there was talk of selling it to private owners. From these tangled branches fell the seed of an idea, which landed in the fertile brain of Corin Hardy.
Fast-forward to the present, and I find myself watching The Hallow. A English tree specialist called Adam (Joseph Mawle) is in Ireland to survey a forest, which angers the villagers. You might think they’re tree-hugging hippies. They’re not. Quite the opposite: they live in undisguised fear of the “fairies, banshees and baby-stealers” who lurk in the woods.
Most vocal of these is angry farmer Colm (played by Michael McElhatton) who lost his own daughter to the trees. He rarely finds Adam at home, so most of his interactions are with Adam’s wife, Clare. She’s played superbly by Bojana Novakovic. Also present is their baby, Finn, around whom the drama solidifies.
For what it’s worth, it wasn’t clear to me whether Adam is saving the forest or simply pricing it up. Is he an environmentalist or a corporate stooge? Probably the latter. To the tree-dwellers, he’s certainly an enemy.
The result could have been a straightforward creature-feature. Adam’s fieldwork rouses the Hallow, who turn out to be a bunch of scary monsters. They target him in his car and then in his home, which generates some first class scenes of spooky peril.
But the threat isn’t just physical, and the use of European folklore really elevates the film. Rather than wanting to kill or eat the family, the Hallow are trying to steal the baby. Finn is only a few months old and feels incredibly vulnerable. The early car scene makes for superb horror: as the Hallow close in, Adam gets locked in the boot, with Finn exposed in his booster seat. Adam’s reaction as a father is visceral and believable, and the resulting scenes are only outdone by the gripping climax. With horror movies, you have no expectation of a happy ending, and I can’t remember the last time I was so rapt and alarmed by the possibilities on offer.
In technical terms, the production is 100% cinema quality—something else you don’t take for granted with horror!—and the setting is used to great effect. Bojana Novakovic deserves a special mention for her superb performance, but I can’t say too much about it without spoiling the plot. In any case, you can find out for yourself. I recommend The Hallow very highly, and can’t see what else Corin Hardy has up his sleeve.