Direct-to-DVD scream queen Jaimie Alexander (THE OTHER SIDE, REST STOP 2) finally gets her name above the title and stars as Liz Chambers, a young woman with a secret past and a car with a busted oil pump who gets stranded in the middle of Hope, a lonely Midwestern town straight out of CHILDREN OF THE CORN. This is the kind of movie that features a total stranger approaching the main character seemingly at random to deliver loads of boring exposition. In the case of HALLOWED GROUND, the total stranger is plucky, midriff-baring reporter Sarah Austin, who inexplicably approaches Liz in the local diner and fills her in on the town’s rich lore, complete with flashbacks.
The fanatical Preacher Hathaway founded the town of Hope back in 1896, a cruel man who would nail his unfaithful parishioners to a huge cross and then jam them into a cluster in the middle of a cornfield . Some good Samaritans from a nearby town heard about this religious insanity and gathered in a mob to crucify and burn Hathaway in retribution. Screaming in pain from atop his cross, Hathaway promised his revenge.
Sarah tells her lengthy tale and then invites Liz to go do some reporting at the old Hathaway farm, and Liz decides to tag along. The girls, in search of a good photo op, stuff some clothes with hay and leaves to create a makeshift scarecrow. The evil spirit of Preacher Hathaway embodies the scarecrow, which immediately begins a short-lived but mildly interesting killing spree.
As far as killer-scarecrow movies go, HALLOWED GROUND can’t hold a melted candle to an eighties classic like the recently re-released SCARECROWS (1988) or even the eerie but hard-to-find DARK NIGHT OF THE SCARECROW (1981), and this is due in part to HALLOWED GROUND’s limited killer scarecrow appearances. After a few killings, the scarecrow appears in front of the townsfolk and suddenly they’re all like Ewoks in front of C-3PO, bowing and genuflecting, and the movie turns into a less scary version of DEAD AND BURIED, with Liz fleeing through town, encountering various townsfolk, getting duped into thinking they want to help her when in fact they’re scarecrow worshippers, and then fleeing again. She runs into a blatantly inept cop who continues to tell her that she’s safe, even as he makes teeth-gratingly obvious blunders, which does provide some moments of unintentional humor.
I like Jaimie Alexander. I mean, I like her a lot. But even Jaimie’s undeniable cuteness couldn’t save this blundering, awkward attempt at horror. Sarah the reporter was an interesting—although irritating—character and after her first reel demise the film suffers from its refusal to develop any further memorable characters. Liz simply ping-pongs from one house in Hope to the next, meeting boring middle-aged characters, trying to escape, and getting her face scratched up a little bit. Tame, meandering, and immediately forgettable, HALLOWED GROUND simply can’t deliver on the small amount of killer scarecrow promise exhibited in its first 30 minutes.