The credits of Corin Taylor’s The Hallow roll over a stylish tracking shot of its forest setting being torn down by developers, slowly drifting through its scene of lorries and chainsaws and felled trees to rest upon the foreboding darkness of the remaining woodland that has been terrorising its characters throughout the prior film. It’s a striking, flawlessly executed scene, indicating a sophisticated eye and sensitivity to its subject matter that was absent from the rest of the film.
The issue with The Hallow doesn’t lie in its ideas, most of which are clever twists on Irish folklore and goblin horror, but in its execution. The young married parents that incur the wrath of the faery people (here referred to as The Hallow) are smartly developed and realistically deal with their circumstances as they slowly realise that they aren’t dealing with crazed locals but supernatural forces, but their aggressors are disappointingly generic, particularly when their diversity and threat is stressed so carefully in the films exposition when a local policeman warns them of banshees and baby-snatchers and a host of other folkloric monsters. Instead, what we’re given are bland, vaguely wooden demon creatures – spooky when in the shadows but silly when they come closer.
There are some inventive and scary set pieces, particularly early on, and the film’s central threat against the baby has the gravity it needs to commit to such a risky concept. But there is a pervasive visual flatness to the film, never truly exploiting its woodland setting to full effect. There is a good film somewhere in here, and a promising director, but in the end The Hallow is a disappointing not-quite.
Nostalgia is a dangerous thing. It’s a trap that we humans allow ourselves to fall into over and over, content to reminisce over what we had yesterday rather than create something new today. It seems that now more than ever people are attempting wherever they can to monetise our collective craving for shared memories: entire internet empires are being built out of an endless stream of content that exists just to say ‘remember this?’ and it seems that Hollywood producers are bearing back ceaselessly into the past with abandon: if it’s not a superhero movie, it’s a remake, or a reboot, or a throwback. Sometimes, as with The Amazing Spider-man, it’s all three at once.
So it makes sense to reboot Jurassic Park now, at just the right time for the generation that saw it as kids to be coming into disposable income for the first time. Park inspires passionate nostalgia in millenials, and with good reason: looking at it now, it’s still something of a marvel – with special effects both physical and computer generated that somehow still hold up today, a cast chock-full of iconic characters, and Steven Spielberg behind the camera at his most technically assured. It’s one of the most taut, purely pleasurable action films of its time. Its sequels, too, featured some thrilling sequences, but each applied same format with diminishing returns; dinos can only get so big before they get weary, and though they do include some new ideas, they suffer from repeating many of the same beats as their gold-standard forebear.
2013 was a great year for open, generous filmmaking that explored ordinary humanity with an eye that was critical but unjudgemental, treating its subjects and characters with a care and tenderness that does not preclude putting them through the ringer. Aside from these that follow, honorable mentions must go to Harmony Korine’s State of the Nation address Spring Breakers, the wildly entertaining You’re Next and Much Ado About Nothing, and the sweet-but-not-sickly childhood tale I Wish.