Wednesday, April 10, 2013

In short: Hollow (2011)

(I'll have to vaguely spoil the film's ending).

The footage we're about to see…oh, you know the drill.

Emma (Emily Plumtree), her fiancé Scott (Matt Stokoe), her best friend James (Sam Stockman), and his girlfriend Lynne (Jessica Ellerby) are going on a weekend trip to the house of Emma's dead grandfather. Relations are somewhat strained: Scott's a jerk, James is quite unhealthily in love with Emma and has brought Lynne mainly as temptation for Scott, and Emma is the opposite of decisive, making them the ideal group to party together.

As if that weren't enough, Emma has always been afraid of a large tree standing close to the house and the ruin of an old abbey, and starts feeling even more threatened on this visit. Strange things™ happen, and a bit of research discloses a history of couples hanging themselves from the tree, possibly spurned on by the ghost of a monk. This being a POV horror movie and all, the neurotic quartet will surely find a way to get themselves first into a situation of shaky-cam shenanigans, lots of gibbering in the dark, and then death.

Do you suffer from POV/found footage horror oversaturation? Then you won't like Michael Axelgaard's Hollow much, because it's another found footage horror film that clearly wants to play with some aspects of the style but can't help itself hitting the same damn beats eighty percent of these films hit. Hollow clearly would like to be a more character based piece of horror yet - while the acting's decent - I found its relationship drama rather on the tiresome side, which is even more problematic in a film that really needs that drama to be interesting and believable; it's after all what the whole plot circles around. I just couldn't bring myself to care about these people and consequently didn't care about the generic misadventures they went through.

I do appreciate that for once a POV ending does make quite clear what was going on throughout the film. I appreciate rather less how prosaic these happenings actually turn out to be. That is of course the sort of thing that happens when a film first promises an English countryside tale of the supernatural but then delivers the story of a mopey guy's complicated plan for a double double suicide. I could imagine this sort of thing actually working but only with acting and writing in the dramatic parts that isn't just decent but incisive and intelligent, and some clearer idea of what mental illnesses are beyond handwaving plot devices. And that's not something Hollow is able to deliver.

I found myself also rather disappointed with the film's final half hour, generally the point in the POV style when the shit hits the fan, the really strange stuff happens (only half off-camera if you're lucky) and the camera shakes while actors cry and mutter and run through woods and countryside. Done right and with imagination, this sort of thing can still be somewhat exciting. In Hollow's case, this whole aspect of the movie feels perfunctory, as if Axelgaard were only going through the motions of a POV horror film without having the ability to make these motions his own. It's all just so very bland.

That blandness really seems to be Hollow's main problem to me: there are some good ideas in the film, there is, however, never a single moment when these ideas come to life on screen.

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