Sunday, November 05, 2017

PDXFF ’17: The Hollow Child

So, you live in a house bordering a wild and brambly woods? Seriously, why don’t you say your final goodbyes to your kids while you still have time. After all, you know full well you will find that forest has a history of child disappearances if you do five minutes of googling. Samantha’s sort of sister Olivia was abducted in such a forest and replaced by an evil doppelganger, but nobody will believe her, because she is the obnoxious foster child in Jeremy Lutter’s The Hollow Child (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Portland Film Festival.

Samantha has issues, but Garrett and Liz still welcomed her into their home. Little Olivia idolizes her, but Samantha is always ditching the eight-ish-year-old, to smoke and drink with her orphanage pal, Emily. She really should have been looking after her when Olivia vanished—a fact not lost on her foster father. Yet, just as her guilt becomes unbearable, Olivia reappears—except this isn’t really Olivia. It is an impostor, who enjoys ripping the eyes off her stuffed animals.

Of course, Liz and Garrett are too dense to recognize her ominous behavior. Plus, the forest spirit has a talent making Samantha look bad. However, the moody teen will possibly glean some survival tips from Alison, the town nutcase, who went through a very similar ordeal several years ago.

As horror movies go, Hollow Child is pretty non-descript. Frankly, it feels it could have been produced as a Lifetime Movie Network original. You have a child in jeopardy and the young heroine nobody believes. Frustratingly, it also features the all-too-common “screw-you” horror movie ending. Seriously, it is a minor miracle that we care about these characters to any extent, so it is a real buzzkill when Lutter and screenwriter Ben Rollo drop a load of dirt on them during the closing seconds.

On the plus side, there is some realistically engaging pseudo-chemistry shared by Samantha and Logan, the nebbish classmate she’s just not into. Jessica McLeod and Connor Stanhope play off each other nicely and they both can actually pass for older teens. Young Hannah Cheramy also chews the scenery like a seasoned horror genre performer as impostor Olivia.

You have seen better films than this and you will see plenty that are worse. Yet, most fans will want more than middle-of-the-pack, lukewarm foster care angst. Regardless, even genre diehards who are somehow intrigued should be able to easily wait until it hits its natural home, VOD. In the meantime, The Hollow Child screens tonight (11/5) during this year’s PDXFF.