Tuesday, December 8, 2015

SyFy vs The Mynd: The Hollow (2015)

Sisters Sarah (Stephanie Hunt), Marley (Sarah Dugdale) and Emma (Alisha Newton) have been having a rather hard time of late. Their parents died in an accident that left the youngest Emma hurt and suffering from some form of PTSD, and now the money their parents have left them has run out from paying for Emma’s hospital bills. Their only choice to escape the loving arms of the foster care system is to move in with their aunt Cora (Deborah Kara Unger).

Cora lives on a somewhat isolated island in what I assume to be the Pacific Northwest. Unfortunately, this island turns out to be at the centre of the return of a rather nasty supernatural surprise in form of a fiery stick-monster bound to Halloween and storms. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a storm coming up, and it’s the day before Halloween, so when the sisters arrive on the island, Cora is already dead (one suspects Unger isn’t cheap), the island under attack, and the sisters will have to put quite some work into surviving.

It looks as if now that the SyFy Original is a species threatened with extinction, the few films still being made are allowed a greater degree of care – or we’re a really lucky audience and only the crappy SyFy Originals are dying out. Be that as it may, SyFy veteran Sheldon Wilson (in the past responsible for what might be my favourite SyFy movie, Carny) does provides us with a fine example of the SyFy monster movie. Pleasantly, it’s an earnest one too, so nobody’s patience will be tested by unfunny attempts at being funny, and the people who can only enjoy a monster movie ironically can go watch American Horror Story.

But I’m getting rude, and I digress. If you’re acquainted with the SyFy formula, you will have noticed this one surprisingly doesn’t feature any divorced characters getting together again via monster hunting, and indeed no romance plot whatsoever. Instead, Wilson concentrates on the tensions and bonds between the three sisters (the male characters aren’t of any import whatsoever), whose nature is of course revealed via the whole monster business. The characterization isn’t particularly deep but done with a degree of precision that avoids making any of the sisters the bad one who doesn’t deserve to live and realized by the young actresses with surety. The sisters and their relationship feels believable enough to not make me want them get eaten by a stick-monster. Indeed, I found myself actively rooting for them during the course of the film, which isn’t exactly something you can count on in more formulaic horror flicks.

As in most of his other movies, Wilson shows himself to be a capable director of low budget chills too, with many an atmospheric shot of rather picturesque woods (mostly by day, interestingly enough), well-timed monster attacks and an eye for the gruesome detail. It’s a very controlled movie, with little going on in front of the camera that doesn’t have an actual bearing on the movie except for the somewhat pointless sub-plot of Emma’s visions that changes nothing about the plot and tells us nothing about the characters (and was perhaps more important in an earlier draft of the script?). That subplot is fortunately tiny, though, so The Hollow stays the taut and fun SyFy horror movie I enjoyed greatly.

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