Review: Hollow

Hollow is a horror film about a tree. No, really. It’s a horror flick about a spooky tree. That initially put me off, but it’s not as bad as it sounds. It’s not great, but the film is better than one might expect after reading the synopsis.

Scott, Emma, James and Lynne head to the English countryside on holiday. Once there, they encounter more than the pleasant getaway they had in mind. The group crosses paths with a tree that is haunted by a malevolent spirit known to lead young couples to an untimely demise.

I am impressed that the filmmakers managed to make a story about a haunted tree fairly suspenseful. I had no expectations going in and was pleasantly surprised by parts of the film.

Hollow does a lot of things right. It starts out with good atmosphere. I enjoyed the way that it plays on our fear of what we don’t see. That is much more frightening than a bunch of blatant and cheap scares. Even when there wasn’t anything overtly wrong, the film still kept its viewer feeling unsettled and on edge. Hollow starts out slowly and  builds a mounting sense of dread. It really began to draw me in after about fifteen minutes. I was captivated by the tension and paranoia that the characters begin to feel.

I’m normally not a big “found footage” fan, but there are a handful of films in the sub-genre that I thoroughly enjoy. I think that when used well, the ‘found footage’ style of filmmaking can be effective. Unfortunately, it’s often used as a means for filmmakers without a budget or good script to make a movie. I think that the vast majority of ‘found footage’ films are gimmicky and void of originality. For me, Hollow falls somewhere between good and bad use of “found footage.”

The performances are all pretty well acted. The characters are likable. They’re funny and amusing. You come to care about them throughout the course of the film. They have a human quality that makes them easy to relate to. It also makes the terror that they experience feel more realistic.

The creepy atmosphere and the mythos of the tree reminded me of The Blair Witch Project. But, for most of the film, the similarities were not done in such a flagrant manner as to make me accuse Hollow of plagiarism. The scene at the end, where Emma turns the camera on herself and is sobbing did look like it was ripped right out of The Blair Witch Project. Aside from that one scene, though, Hollow stands on its own as decent addition to the ‘found footage’ sub genre.

Hollow‘s flaws really come to the forefront in the final act. In the last thirty minutes it starts to fall apart. The previously rational characters start making dumb decisions and senselessly bickering. It just doesn’t feel characteristic of the people we’ve been getting to know for the past hour.

Another thing that bothered me was that throughout the film, it was impossible to discern why cast were actually filming. The camera was a source of light during darkness. but, beyond that, their motivations for documenting their trip were never really clear. There’s usually a reason why the events in a found footage film are being recorded, and I could not figure out why their trip so desperately needed to be committed to film.

The gore was very minimal. It consisted of a few bloody set pieces and some dead animals. My biggest complaint on that front was that the scene with the bodies hanging from the tree looked really fake.

The film’s ending was disappointing. I wanted to know more about the mythology behind the tree. If the final act had been more well constructed and we were given a more fulfilling ending, it could have been a really good film.

Hollow is now available via VOD. It’s worth a look for the avid “found footage” enthusiast. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be too disappointed.

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