I know that it’s not a favorite of a lot of people, but I absolutely love John Carpenter’s Prince Of Darkness. Not because Alice Cooper is in the film (although for me, that’s a big plus), Prince Of Darkness is a slow but deliberate film that played with the idea of an ancient evil being locked away, waiting for the right time to appear. That time also seems to involve possessed homeless people, but that’s part of the fun. Director Nathan Hendrickson, who is more known for being a director of video games rather than film, has seemingly taken inspiration from Carpenter’s film and unleashed The Hollow One, which recently screened at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
Rachel (Kate Alden) and her sister Anna Wade (Chelsea Farthing) live with their parents in a small farming community. Their father, Michael (Tony Doupe), has been looking for information regarding their mother Linda’s (Tonya Skoog) past. After a private investigator drops off a mysterious object that seems to be related to the necklace Linda wears, Linda is killed in an accident, and forces Rachel and her sister to leave the farm. Returning two years later to search for their father, the community is mysteriously deserted. Eventually, the two sisters discover more about the mysterious object, and specifically, what was in it.
One of the things that made Prince Of Darkness so enjoyable was its atmosphere, and for The Hollow One, atmosphere is one of the film’s strong points. There’s always something off-putting about a quiet town, which is magnified once you have start introducing the idea of the town suddenly becoming deserted, save for the townsfolk that are there left and acting strange. A strong use of colour and lighting in the cinematography also adds to the atmosphere. Cinematographer Connor Hair makes a strong contrast between the big city and the remote Washington farmland with bright colours used for the former, transitioning to a muted palette for scenes in the latter. It also helps to have some things that are definitely out of place, such as jars of black goo everywhere or trails of blood. The design for The Hollow One, while blatantly CGI, is still interesting and is a different take than what you’d normally expect. A good sound design and an equally-strong score completes the overall effect, and The Hollow One seemingly has the start of something good.
On the topic of the acting, while the performances were, for the most part, acceptable, the script let the actors down in many instances (more on that later). Alden turned in an acceptable performance as Rachel, but fell into the cliched “final girl” role once things got going. Farthing also did what she could with her role as Anna, as did Jesse James in the role of Anna’s boyfriend, Matt. Again, both actors did what was needed, but also fell into the same sort of cliched role as Alden, all of which led to the start of the film’s problems.
Despite a great setup, The Hollow One stumbled with falling into familiar territory with many aspects of its characters. While it’s understandable that in some horror films, you have to accept a certain degree of disbelief when it comes to character actions. In The Hollow One, the main characters seemingly ignore some pretty obvious warning signs that things aren’t okay, and instead proceed further. Those jars of black ooze aren’t given much of a second thought. Neither are the townsfolk covered in blood, or the trails of blood. Hell, speaking in demonic voices doesn’t seem to phase these people. Apart from the acting, the film also has a problem with pacing. Again, there’s a limit these days to how slow a film can burn before you really test the patience of the audience, especially when you factor in these characters. The ending, while having an appropriate twist, isn’t as satisfying as it should be, and doesn’t feel like there’s enough resolution in the ending.
Presentation and atmosphere aside, The Hollow One feels just like its name. The characters haven’t been given the attention needed, and instead are given the familiar roles that we’ve seen in many other past films, and whose actions indicate a lack of attention in the writing. This in turn makes the slow pace of the film aggravating to sit through. It’s really unfortunate, since it’s clear that Hendrickson definitely has an eye for how a film should look and feel. However, it’s also yet another case of a director pulling double duty with the writing, and falling short in that department. Had Hendrickson stuck to the directing duties and given the writing job to someone else, The Hollow One possibly wouldn’t feel like it was a case of style over substance.