Reviewed by Michael Ferraro
In a small village in England, word has it that an old ruined monastery is home to many a creepy encounter. None of the local villagers go anywhere near it. The most ominous marking around said ruins is a very large and haunting tree. This tree has a history of its own too. Throughout history, people have found their way to the tree to commit suicide. But is that action done by their own free will, or is this the work of something wicked?
Two couples – Emma and Scott (Emily Plumtree and Matt Stokoe), and James and Lynne (Sam Stockman and Jessica Ellerby) – visit the nice, quiet English countryside to get away for the weekend. Emma has been put in charge of clearing her late grandfather’s cottage. She uncovers some stories and articles about the suicides and the tree but her friends don’t really seem to care much. The tree used to scare her as a child, which is understandable as it is pretty haunting, but the rest of the film focuses more on the breakdown of these two couples’ relationships than giving us evidence as to the tree’s history.
Written by Matthew Holt and directed by Michael Axelgaard, Hollow feels like two films. The first, about two couples vacationing and then discovering faults with their partners takes too long to take off. Emma has a lot of trust issues for reasons we never learn, and Scott’s looks toward Lynne only feed that issue more. The second, about an evil tree, is clearly the more interesting one but we don’t get enough of it.
The structure of Hollow provides us with nothing we haven’t seen with found-footage cinema before. It begins with a slow exposition that somehow forgets to develop any of the characters included, before finally leading to the last 15 minutes of so-called action. Like many before it, it’s simply too little, too late. The characters get lost near the tree and can’t seem to escape, until one by one they start disappearing.
Films like Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity never show us just what is doing the haunting, but they succeed in terrifying us because the set-up provides enough information for our imaginations to run wild. Hollow never really gives us a single solid clue as to why this is happening. We can piece together that at some point, there was something going on in this monastery that perhaps wasn’t too holy. We can assume the people we learn about hanging from the tree are a sort of sacrifice, but for what we can never really be sure.
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