Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Hollow: Trees Are Evil

For W.G. Sebald, Suffolk was the perfect place for the famous walk and literary digressions that became The Rings of Saturn.  For two dysfunctional couples, it will become a place of supernatural menace.  The hanging tree will get its due in Michael Axelgaard’s found footage shocker, Hollow (trailer here), which is now available through Tribeca Films’ VOD platforms.

Emma has come to close the country cottage of her beloved late minister grandfather.  For company, she has brought along her smug fiancé Scott, her torch-carrying childhood chum James, and Lynne, the girlfriend he hardly seems to know.  Evidently for estate reasons, Emma wants James to document the process as her videographer.  Considering we are watching footage recovered by the East Anglia constabulary, it is safe to say their weekend does not go well.

James’ camera was found in a large hollow tree that always gave Emma the creeps—and for good reason.  According to legend, a monk and his illicit lover hung themselves there centuries ago.  Ever since it has attracted suicidal couples like an evil magnet.  Obviously, circumstances will lure the quartet back to the notorious spot, but not before they get high and indulge in a spot of strip poker.  However, the power has already been shut off at the cottage, so they will rely on candles and the spotlight on James’ camera for illumination.

Frankly, the full backstory of Hollow is pretty distinctive and the sequences shot in the ruins of the nearby monastery are genuinely creepy.  The James’ increasingly apparent instability further cranks up the tension.  However, Axelgaard hews too closely to the Blair Witch playbook during the rather predictable third act.  Still, producer-screenwriter Matthew Holt’s dialogue has a little snap to it (that’s a little, not a lot).

Whitechapel co-star Sam Stockman decently portrays James’ ambiguously off mental state without doing the full Norman Bates.  As Scott, Matt Stokoe unleashes his inner cad, which is something.  While Jessica Ellerby’s Lynne is not a total victim waiting to be strung-up, Emily Plumtree’s Emma sort of is, making the female characters a wash overall.

It is important to know Hollow is not exactly tactful in its treatment of religious themes.  The late grandfather’s successor is definitely not portrayed in a sympathetic light.  Likewise, Scott the hedonist shows a disrespect for the cross that would cause riots throughout the Muslim world had it been directed towards the Koran.  Yet somehow, Americans will be able to shrug it off and get on to their lives (of course, there is also a strong likely he will pay for his excesses in proper E.C. Comics fashion). 

Despite its flaws, Axelgaard shows a decent command of horror movie mechanics throughout Hollow.  Flawed but watchable, it is now available for voracious genre fans via Tribeca’s on-demand services.