This entry is part 10 of 30 in the series Raindance 2011

Released: 2011
Director: Michael Axelgaard

Starring: Emily Plumtree, Sam Stockman, Matt Stokoe, Jessica Ellerby


A decent but unexceptional British horror

In the past couple of years there has been an explosion in the number of “found footage” films.  Mostly these are films which look like they have been recorded on a camcorder and discarded after a horrific event of some description.  Their success is totally understandable – they’re cheap and work particularly well in the horror genre, helping to create suspense and disconnection from reality but I’m not a massive fan of the phenomenon.  It’s because I’m really quite lazy and I like everything to be presented to me clearly, in focus and not jiggling around too much.  The most famous found footage film is The Blair Witch Project which premiered at Raindance over a decade ago but more recent successes include Cloverfield and Troll Hunter.

Hollow is a low-budget British horror film premiering at Raindance which fits nicely into the found footage mould. Emma and Scott, Lynn and James are two couples who are spending the weekend at the Suffolk cottage of Emma’s late grandfather, a Church of England vicar.  Emma and Scott are celebrating their engagement but it soon becomes apparent that neither relationship is as perfect as we are initially led to believe.  Emma reluctantly shares her fears of a strange tree near the cottage and evidence of the tree’s connection to a number of suicides involving young couples is uncovered.  As the weekend progresses the quartet faces increasing distrust and mounting danger.

The cast of newcomers is exceptionally strong and all put in fine performances.  I was particularly impressed by Emily Plumtree as Emma, the most sensible member of the group.  She manages to convey her character’s kindness, worries and terror nicely.  Plumtree shines in comparison to the other three leads, but they are also good.

What I enjoyed most about Hollow was the fact that a tree was the spookiest thing about it.  Honestly!  I’ve always found trees with weird shaped branches which sit in the middle of fields inherently creepy – why aren’t they in the woods playing nicely with the other trees?  What are they up to?  I also like the subversion of our normal expectations of the beautiful Suffolk countryside as a peaceful and relaxing place to visit for the weekend.  There are some genuinely frightening and creepy moments and at times I felt my heart pounding with terror.

The sensible side of me got ridiculously annoyed by the lack of common sense shown by the characters.  If you’re staying in a cottage with no power for an entire weekend why wouldn’t you pop to B&Q and get a couple of massive torches?

I found some of the storytelling a little lazy.  A property developer wants to show how edgy he is during a wild weekend so naturally he has a massive bag of cocaine to make the party go with a swing.  That’s the best the writer could do? The idea of Strip Monopoly however did intrigue.  But I’m such an incompetent cheat at Monopoly that it wouldn’t work out well.

I know it’s a horror film and the characters are in scary situations but I got bored of all the screaming and just wanted them to shut up.  High-pitched screaming is an annoying noise and adds nothing to the tension when over-used.  I got tired of the shaky camcorder footage although in fairness these complaints are a reflections of my problem with the genre and not of the film itself.

I enjoyed the ambiguity of the ending.  We never discover if the malevolent force threatening the characters is one of the group, an evil spirit within the tree or the vengeful ghost of East Anglian roadkill.  It’s not the latter I’m sure, but the thought came to me while watching the film and I got quite focused on it.  If I ever make a found footage horror movie you’ll know the baddie is the squashed badger.

Hollow is a fine, if unexceptional, British horror.  It’s not destined to become a classic but it has a good premise, some really scary moments and a great young cast.  Definitely worth a watch.

Previous and next posts in this series:<< Interview – Fambul Tok Producer, Libby HoffmanAmnesty (Amnistia) >>
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