It’s a common complaint about modern haunted-house movies: “Why don’t they leave?” How many paranormal activities have to take place before the families in the Paranormal Activity flicks exit, screen left? To their credit, the couple in Corin Hardy’s chilling The Hallow come to their senses almost immediately. Not that it does them much good.
Adam and Clare Hitchens (Joseph Mawle and Bojana Novakovic) have just moved into an old house in the woods of rural Ireland. Adam is evidently a botanist of some sort (or a crime lab expert for CSI: Ballaghaderreen); he’s investigating a strange fungus that’s cropped up in the area. Naturally, its intentions are unnatural, and before you can say, “You’re next! You’re next!” the malignant gunk has invaded their home, threatening their infant son.
Hardy’s impressively frightening debut starts as something of a Straw Dogs/Evil Dead mash-up (complete with sinister neighbors and a malevolent book). He’s free with his influences — everything from The Thing to Invasion of the Body Snatchers to (oh, what the hell) The Ruins — but pays tribute without stumbling into pastiche.
The Hallow offers plenty of scares and is unnerving from wire to wire, wrapping up the second act with a bang and red-lining the tension until the end. And that’s really the only problem: When is menacing too menacing? I’d ask the “quaint” townsfolk who try (unsuccessfully) to run Adam and Clare off: If your very existence is like a never-ending bad dream, why in the name of St. Patrick would you stick around?
Directed by Corin Hardy
Opens November 6, IFC Center