Dir. Michael Axelgaard
Styles: found footage horror
Others: The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, Cloverfield
Links: Hollow - Tribeca Film
We horror fans sure are lucky: whenever something creepy happens, some camera-crazed nut with extremely tolerant friends is there to record it all. A British entry in the endless spool of found-footage scare flicks, shot on location for about five quid, Hollow concerns two couples who get more than they bargained for during a weekend getaway in Dunwich.
James (Sam Stockman), the film’s requisite chronicler, is dating Lynne (Jessica Ellerby) but is still in love with old flame Emma (Emily Plumtree), who is now engaged to Scott (Matt Stokoe). This foursome decamps to the home of Emma’s late grandfather, a vicar who has left behind a trove of books, photos, and newspaper clippings relating to a local legend about a “suicide tree” from which couples have been hanging themselves since the Middle Ages. Director Michael Axelgaard, writer-producer Matthew Holt, and the talented cast of young stage and television actors put admirable care into providing the characters with depth — presumably so we’ll feel invested in them when, inevitably, terrible things start to happen.
Unfortunately, Hollow falls victim to the same problem that plagues all films of its type: after a while it just feels like some stranger’s tedious, poorly shot home movie. The strength of the writing and acting makes it less boring than, say, The Blair Witch Project (which didn’t start the trend but certainly popularized it), but Hollow lacks even the one or two genuine shocks that convinced people Blair Witch was a good horror movie. Once the film decides it’s time to stop establishing atmosphere and get down to the business of scaring us, it drags interminably, with lots of heavy breathing, strange sounds in the dark, and screams of “What the fuck was that?”
The found-footage approach ultimately proves extraneous — nothing more than a market-tested hook. But the filmmakers’ miscalculation may be generic rather than stylistic: their unscary horror movie contains the seeds of a knotty drama of relationships.