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Blu-ray Released: 2/19/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/2/2013
When I think about movies, I usually think about individual films and not genres or sub-genres as a whole. However, there is one sub-genre which I must address today. The "found footage" horror film sub-genre must be stopped. Here we are, fourteen years after The Blair With Project and we are still getting rip-offs. This wouldn't be a bad thing if any of these movies were good. But, most are awful and, as I've stated before, there seems to be an unofficial competition going on to see who can make the worst example of this sort of movie. Hollow isn't the worst movie of this sort that I've seen, but it definitely typifies the problems within this kind of film.
As Hollow opens, we meet Emma (Emily Plumtree), Scott (Matt Stokoe), Lynne (Jessica Ellerby) and James (Sam Stockman), four friends who are traveling to the British countryside for a weekend holiday. They are visiting the house of Emma's late grandfather. Once they arrive and begin going through the dead man's things, Emma is reminded of a local legend concerning a huge, hollow tree. There are many stories, going back centuries, of lovers hanging themselves from the tree. Emma recounts a story her mother once told her about being pursued by a hooded figure near the tree. So, of course, the group decides to go visit the tree, despite Emma's unease about this plan. They also romp through some local ruins and play on the beach. As the story moves on, we learn that Emma, who is now with Scott, used to date James, and he still appears to have feelings for her. When the group decides to leave the area, they find themselves irresistibly drawn to the tree.
This may sound crazy or illogical, but Hollow seems to go out of its way to include every cliche which has made the "found footage" horror film so laughable. First of all, an idea and a story are two different things. If I were to describe the overall story of Hollow to you, including the "twist" ending, you would think that it sounds pretty good. But, like so many other movies, Director Michael Axelgaard and Writer Matthew Holt attempt to stretch a fairly good short story idea into a 90-minute movie. This means that we get a lot shots and scenes of nothing. Hollow may be one of the most uneventful films of this genre, as we get one useless scene after another, and these scenes don't seem to be building towards anything. The final moment, which was clearly influenced by The Blair Witch Project, is interesting, but most viewers will never make it that far.
Which brings me to my next point -- Why are the characters in these films always so unappealing? Who made it a rule that every guy has to be a braying jackass and every woman has to be a whiny flake? There are plenty of even-keeled people in real life -- how come they never make it into these movies? I didn't like any of these characters from the outset, therefore I didn't care what happened to them. We are supposed to lean towards Emma, as she's the level-headed one, but she's also a pushover. We see that she is clearly frightened about going to the tree, but she goes anyway...on multiple occasions. (Of course, if she didn't go, there wouldn't be a movie, but her unrealistic actions hurt the story.) For a movie to work, it should have at least one likeable and believable character and Hollow fails on this front.
The coup de grace with Hollow's issues is the camera. Here again, we have another found footage movie where the camera is always on, no matter what. At the beginning, Emma does ask for a lot of footage of the house and grounds, but that in no way justifies the fact that every moment is documented. These movies which have unmotivated filming of events drive me crazy. Of course, the result is over half of the film is filled with trivial scenes. This is most likely meant to "humanize" the characters, but it just equals boredom for the viewer. The worst part is the third act, where we are treated to scene after scene of people running through darkness with only the tiny light of the camera illuminating their path. However, Hollow does get minor kudos for being one of the few films in the genre where the camera's battery becomes an issue.
Hollow was very reminiscent of the recent Italian entryBack from Hell. Both are from Euorpe, both feature a group of people who travel to the countryside and visit a church, and neither lives up to its problem. While is a bad movie, it's especially bad since it actually had a good idea. But, few are going to be willing to sit through 89 minutes of goobers running through the dark just to get to the interesting twist. Hollow describes more than the tree here.
Hollow turns out to be a pointless title, since nothing happens inside the tree on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of New Video. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. Being a "found footage" movie, we get a variety of video looks here. For the most part, the image is sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source materials. Any distortion or blurring of the image is a filmmaking technique. Having said that, there are many scenes here where the only light comes from the camera, and these are notably dark. I realize that the point was to have the scenes dark in order to increase the tension, but we are often looking at a dot of light and little else. The level of detail and depth are acceptable, but not great. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The audio is OK, but I found that I had to turn on the subtitles to ensure that I was hearing everything accurately. The stereo effects are well-done and there are some nice moments where we get sounds coming from off-screen. The surround sound effects are a bit mild, but the do add to the finale. The third act also features some noticeable sub-woofer effects.
The lone extra on the Hollow Blu-ray Disc is "Story Behind the Scene" (3 minutes) is an interview with Director Michael Axelgaard who describes the steps taken on-set to create a specific mood for the crew. Writer Matthew Holt also chimes in, stating how he was inspired by Jaws. That's funny, because I was inspired to go watch Jaws...or any other movie beside this one.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.