“An old monastery in a small, remote village in Suffolk, England has been haunted by a local legend for centuries. Left in ruin and shrouded by the mystery of a dark spirit that wills young couples to suicide, the place has been avoided for years, marked only by a twisted, ancient tree with an ominous hollow said to be the home of great evil. When four friends on holiday explore the local folklore, they realize that belief in a myth can quickly materialize into reality, bringing horror to life for the town.” –from Tribeca Films’ press release.
In all honesty, I’m not the world’s biggest found footage fan. It’s my opinion that with the exception of a few movies here and there, the genre is already tired and doesn’t offer viewers anything new or exciting. Imagine my surprise when I was sent a screener for Michael Axelgaard’s HOLLOW, and discovered that it was yet another found footage film. Even more surprising though was the fact that it was a pretty solid movie, offering a great deal more than the typical film of the same genre.
Walking into this movie, I already had two films in my head: Christopher Nolan’s THE DARK KNIGHT and Magnet Films’ recent anthology epic, V/H/S. The reason I was thinking of those two films, was the fact that both were game changers in my opinion. After Nolan’s Dark Knight film, the superhero genre just wasn’t the same. Gone were the days of wanting cartoony-silliness and hokey one liners, those elements were replaced with a sense of grittiness, and an all bets off attitude. I feel the same way towards V/H/S, and the way it changed the found footage genre that it was in. That film took that genre and did it so well, that it’s almost pointless for others to do it if they’re not going to offer a new spin or a fresh perspective. Luckily, HOLLOW does just that, giving some fresh air to a genre that you can tell the filmmakers love.
What HOLLOW does is introduce four characters that are caught up in a pretty detailed love square, and eventually throws those characters into turmoil and danger when they come upon a tree that has folklore surrounding it’s past. Emma is engaged to Scott, who flirts and thinks about Lynn. Lynn is dating James, and guess what? James is in love with Emma, his best friend whom he obsessively pines over, needing therapy to deal with a past affair between the two. While that seems like it might be taken directly out of a daytime soap opera, it never really goes into the overly dramatic territory that one might assume from those plot points. What sets the film apart from the rest of the found footage types, is that while there are scares a plenty, character development is front and center this time around. You’re engrossed watching it, ready to take the journey with the characters and when things begin to go wrong, you actually care about what happens to them. I found myself on the edge of my seat when following a night of drinking and experimenting with drugs, the gang breaks into a church to get holy water, as a joke to exorcise the tree’s spirits. What follows, is more of a character study of mental illness and what evil can lead people to do, and less about jump scares and typical found footage fare.
While the film is far from perfect (yes, people get suddenly pulled away like every other found footage film, and yes we get yet ANOTHER Blair Witch “cry into the camera” moment here), it’s very noticeable that Axelgaard and Holt have a deep appreciation for characters and not just scares. HOLLOW excels where the newer class of found footage films unfortunately don’t, and that somewhat exciting to me. I’m looking forward to their next projects.
HOLLOW is directed by Michael Axelgaard with the screenplay written by Matthew Holt. It stars Emily Plumtree, Sam Stockman, Jessica Ellerby, and Matt Stokoe. The film is NOW AVAILABLE on VOD outlets via TRIBECA FILMS.