There is a new couple moving into this quiet area of this ancient Irish forest, the Hitchens, Adam (Joseph Mawle) and Clare (Bojana Novakovic), and the husband is there to assist in taking down a region of the trees to be sold for the logging industry, so soon after arriving has ventured out with his new baby Finn carried on his back to get the measure of the woods and start marking trees to be cut down, that sort of thing. However, when he is out in the middle of nowhere, he notices a small building that looks abandoned, and wanders inside. There is not much to be seen, though he does notice a dead deer lying against one wall; telling the baby not to inform his mother, he takes a sample of the goo sticking to it...
Quite why he does that is not entirely clear, but he is keen on taking samples of plant life it seems, though he may regret wishing to examine this particular gunk. This was because he has now attracted the interest of whatever creates it, who turn out to be the faerie folk of Irish mythology. Funnily enough, although there are plenty of books featuring such material, there have not been an abundance of films to deal with what you would think would be a rich vein of fiction with this as its subject, in spite of a number of horror movies being shot on the Emerald Isle, but with The Hallow writer and director Corin Hardy, a pop and rock video creator making his feature debut, committed to this.
Hardy had after all been a big fan of monster movies ever since he was a kid, making him one of the generation of filmmakers to have grown up influenced by the chillers of the nineteen-seventies and eighties, a consistent band of early twenty-first century talents who looked to, say, John Carpenter rather than Alfred Hitchcock. Here he said he was invoking movies such as The Thing and The Evil Dead and placing them in a European setting, though there was a strong, unacknowledged element of The Shining as well, both the Stanley Kubrick film and the Stephen King novel that inspired it, so if you were feeling there was a familiar quality here, it was par for the course with the horrors of the new millennium.
The main aspect of Irish folk tales Hardy implemented was the changeling, in a manner that the George C. Scott shocker of the eighties did not, for here was the real deal, or as close to it as this imagining got. The idea was the faeries wished to swap their babies for the human ones for their own nefarious and pretty much undefinable reasons, maybe as mischief, maybe to demonstrate their superiority over the mortals, or maybe for some arcane power rituals. Quite what happened to the human child brought up by them was a mystery, but their parents would be landed with a bawling, ill-tempered infant who would grow up to be a misfit and not their darling angel that they were hoping for. Naturally, in both Irish and Scottish communities this was often an excuse for the offspring who did not entirely fit in.
Not that The Hallow reached that point, as most of it took place over one night as the Hitchens defend themselves against the faeries who are not your stereotypical Tinkerbells but a host of malformed and very organic-looking creatures, dreamt up by Hardy to presumably appear as if they had emerged from the very trees themselves. There was an appeal to the notion that he could have stuck with the more traditional little people variation, though that might have given viewers the wrong idea about what they were in for, though again it might have upped the weirdness quotient: imagine Darby O'Gill and the Little People with gore and that would be an interesting avenue to explore. Not for this director, who preferred to use a neat mix of practical effects and computer graphics which were implemented with some subtlety to augment the latex and fake blood, and considering this was a pretty basic story, its simplicity worked in its favour. There was nothing fussy about this, it was patently the product of a talent who was very keen on contributing to this genre and if that meant he lacked a perspective that made his efforts more distinctive in an overcrowded field, he had nothing to be ashamed of with what he did achieve. Music by James Gosling.