Writer-director Corin Hardy compares his feature debut, “The Hallow,” to “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Straw Dogs,” which is an astute self-assessment. Though “The Hallow” isn’t on the level of those other films, this backwoods monster movie boasts compelling performances, eye-catching creatures and an effective blend of practical and digital effects.
Joseph Mawle (Benjen Stark on “Game of Thrones”) plays Adam, a forestry scientist who moves his wife and infant son to the remote Irish wilderness to study the trees. Before long he learns why this particular grove has remained untouched for so long, once he and his family are beset by ancient beasties.
Because no modern film can escape the British Isles without multiple “Game of Thrones” actors involved, Mawle is joined by Michael McElhatton, who ditches his Roose Bolton clothes to play a gruff local farmer who advises these interlopers to leave. Bojana Novakovic also makes an impression as Adam’s wife, Claire, who becomes the real heroine of the story after her husband’s sanity slips.
“The Hallow” starts slow, and there’s not much story beyond Adam angering the spirits, and everything goes haywire. But the nature of the trouble evolves as Hardy pays visual and narrative homage to “Alien,” “Gremlins,” “The Evil Dead” and more (including a soupçon of “The Shining”).
There’s a larger point here about the havoc wrought when our natural resources are disrespected. Really, though, “The Hallow” is meant to showcase Hardy’s chops, which are substantial. He’s one to watch.
No MPAA rating.
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.