Saturday, October 31, 2015

The Hollow One Struggles to Take Shape: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by an anonymous source.

Director writer: Nathan Hendrickson.

Cast: Kate Alden, Jesse James, Chelsea Farthing, Tony Doupe and Tonya Skoog.

The Hollow One is a horror film from Nathan Hendrickson. Hendrickson has come from a video game development background and The Hollow One is this director's first film. This indie title is currently on the film festival circuit, with a recent appearance at the Seattle International Film Festival. In the film, a family struggles to overcome a being, made of nothingness. But, love does not always conquer the void, in horror. As the film's theme struggles to take hold, a creepy atmosphere develops in an old barn and farmhouse. Mostly shot at night, the film's tone is consistent. Unfortunately, many other film elements struggle to find affect. The Hollow One is a mostly enjoyable feature, which suffers from the introduction of too many story telling ideas.

The narration begins simply enough. Rachel (Kate Alden) is getting ready to date a neighbour. But, the ride home is a little bumpy. Meanwhile, Rachel's father, Michael (Tony Doupe), has received an ancient relic, in the mail. This relic, once fumbled with, releases an ancient entity. Suffering from low self-esteem, this entity does its best to smother others, to fill the vacuous hole inside. A whole town is almost sucked into this black hole. Two years go by and Rachel is enticed back to the farmhouse, to fight this evil, often proselytizing being. But, the film plays it safe and declares no one a winner.

The film's strongest element is its atmosphere. Director Hendrickson and the large visual effects team have created a very serious and dramatic tone. The music creeps into scenes. As well, red lights stand out in all of the darkness. Horror elements also reside here, with much of the film shot under low-light conditions. In these conditions, the Hollow One is able to move about a darkened barn, at will. Outside of the lighting and music, the settings offer lots of nooks and crannies, from which the zombified townsfolk emerge. An isolated gas bar also invites the character Matt (Jesse James) into a confrontation. The use of dim lighting, strong chords and dark interiors create for an unsettling time.

Still, The Hollow One struggles to find an underlining message; the film's central theme, of love versus nothingness, barely takes shape. The central theme is set up very weakly through the villain's dialogue. This shadowy being offers this line: "there's people that love you," to Rachel. The being is jealous of Rachel's connections and it endeavours to sever them. The being attempts to offer a reason as to why it seeks to absorb others into its being: "so I can understand their existence." But, once the creature gets its node into a character (a metal plate on the back of the neck) it steals its consciousness for itself, thereby destroying that character's connection with the others, in the film. The villain is much like a black hole, absorbing life into it and going into this void is a one way trip.

The film also struggles with the introduction of too many story telling devices. The Hollow One is an ambitious film. It utilizes flashbacks in three different ways. It uses a conventional flashback, with the introduction of an intertitle. The next one comes from Rachel's memory of her father and their dialogue in a kitchen. Still, another is introduced through a short dream sequence, with the introduction of strong visuals. Some of the flashbacks are in colour, another is in black and white. The flashbacks hold no consistency across all three. Also, the film likes to change scenes. One scene involving a car accident changes over time. In one telling, Matt is the driver. In another, Rachel is behind the wheel. This showing of a scene in two different ways can cause confusion. Which events are real? A later scene, which closes out the film, also changes. A lighter, closed ending is switched out for a more surreal one. Again, which scene is real? There is no answer to this second changing scene and viewers will have to decide for themselves. From scene changes to subplots, there is too much going on in the film and this can cause some irregularity in the story.

The Hollow One does not have a distribution date. So, indie horror film fans will have some difficulty tracking this title down. However, the film will likely continue with its film festival run. Though, no future screening dates have officially been announced. The film only offers light terror. But, it does offer a tension filled experience. Here, the Hollow One does his best to suck you in. Yet, the film's weak theme is not developed enough to seep into the darker parts of the sub-conscious.

Overall: 6.75 out of 10.

*this viewer's favourite shot occurs at 1:21:30. Here, the Hollow One appears to hide under a burlap sack, amongst its puppets.

A trailer for the film is available here, on 28DLA:

The Hollow One Trailer on 28DLA

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