Edinburgh 2015: 'The Hallow' review

★★★☆☆
Corin Hardy's third feature The Hallow (2015) - screening in the Night Moves strand of this year's Edinburgh Film Festival - is an impressively moody horror set within a deep and dark Irish forest, before losing itself to mediocre effects and a long, on-the-run finish. Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Claire (Bojana Novakovic) relocate to a creaky house in the remote depths of Ireland with their newborn son. His career as a tree doctor forces Adam to tamper with the forest, much to the fear and unhappiness of neighbour Colm (Michael McElhatton), who's more than convinced that his daughter was abducted by the fairies of old folklore.

Adam continues his work, only to come under the attack of a mutating substance and creatures who appear drawn to his baby son. As he messes with his surroundings more, the creature attacks becoming stronger, forcing him and his family on the run, with little in the way of protection. The Hallow starts off well, establishing itself as a tense and atmospheric low-budget horror, with its foreboding milieu instilling immediate unease. The tension mounts slowly, the score and camera work intensifying the position the family find themselves in, cut off from civilisation and shunned by their neighbours even before supernatural horrors take over.

The script is neat enough, but much is left to the imagination, particularly as the film enters its second half and the monsters become more and more integral. It's unclear how they came to be, save from a mysteriously infectious substance in the woods, and why they've set their sights on stealing - and keeping babies. In that respect, the film unravels in its later scenes. Once the monsters arrive, the tension dissipates substantially rather than increases as the family vacate their home and attempt to leave the woods. A series of fairly dramatic occurrences happening and Hardy navigates the camera well enough to bring about a few mild scares. But it's nowhere near as effective as it promised to be. Hardy has been tapped to direct the remake of 1994's The Crow, and while he may seem like an odd choice, he exhibits enough spark in The Hallow to be worthy of the appointment. It's a hope though, that that film doesn't succumb to the same second act misfire as The Hallow does.

The Edinburgh Film Festival programme, tickets and more can be viewed at edfilmfest.org.uk.

Jamie Neish | @EmptyScreens

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