Saturday, October 18, 2014

Halloween Movie Month: Hollow

Hollow (2011)
Netflix instant

Hollow is about a mysterious tree with a history of couples hanging themselves from it.  This is a found footage film that follows two couples vacationing in the country near the mysterious tree.

As soon as the movies started, my first reaction was "UGH....a found footage film."  There have been times that the found footage films have actually worked.  But, most of the time, I think that it feels too gimmicky and doesn't work as well as it was intended.  One of my biggest complaints about found footage films is that most of them don't explain why everything is actually being recorded in the first place.  That is definitely the case in Hollow.  There is one quick comment towards the beginning where a character says "if you could just record everything, that would be lovely."  But, that doesn't actually explain why it is that they are recording anything at all.

There were a few things about the found footage angle that actually worked.  Specifically, I think that the lack of music actually worked.  Without any music to let you know the mood or what to expect, there are some parts that end up being pretty creepy.  Some of the unknown and the expectation of something jumping out at you does raise some of the anticipation.  However, I don't feel like they ever lived up to the anticipation they set.  There is one scene towards the end that is pretty creepy.  But, other than that one scene, I feel like most of the horror aspect falls short.

Even though the lack of music worked in the movie's favor, I have another big gripe about the sound in found footage movies.  Rather than picking up more of the background noises to provide a more complete atmosphere, too much of the background noise is cut out so that you can hear the voices more clearly.  The only times that you hear background noises are when they really want to emphasize the "what was that noise???" of it all.

While the sound quality being almost too good took me out of the movie a little bit, the use of light and dark helped to bring me back in a bit.  During scenes that took place at night, when the light on the camera was the only source of light, you only saw where the light was shining.  Only being able to see what was a few feet in front of you definitely added to the tension.  It gave me almost the same sense of tension as Descent did with it's use of light and dark.  In fact, I feel like it played on a very similar fear, but just on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Descent played on the dark in enclosed spaces, whereas Hollow played on the fear of the dark in open spaces.  It was almost like the open spaces in the dark were too vast, resulting in feeling claustrophobic.

They were able to use some low budget techniques to build a lot of the suspense. But, I feel like there was a lot of buildup without much payoff. There are plenty of times where the suspense could have had huge payoffs! On the one hand, it definitely plays on the fear of the unknown, the fear of the dark, and the fear of too much empty space. But I just felt like it fell short somehow. With the dark and the reflection of the light on the windows, there is so much potential to be terrified – they even talk about how the reflection is limiting their view. But they just never really seem to capitalize on that.

If they had made it PG-13, I think they actually could have gotten away with more of what they did. By that, I mean that if they had been PG-13, then they wouldn't have been able to show as much...which would have made the suspense a practical choice to achieve the fear. However, to have the swearing and nudity, the horror aspect felt like it fell short for an R movie.

Rating/Recommendation:  2.5/5.  Pass.  I think that this movie had some potential, but the use of the found footage gimmick took me out of the movie a lot more than it brought me into it.  The lack of music and the use of light and dark helped to bring me in, but there were too many inconsistencies that took me right back out.  They make a point to mention that the power goes out in the house in which they are staying, but there is never any explanation about how they keep powering the camera for so long.  There are a lot of scenes that say something along the lines of turning off the camera, but it keeps recording. It's like they throw that line in a few times to remind everyone it's found footage and that the characters know that there is a camera...but then they don't actually react as someone would if they really wanted the camera turned off.  Also, it doesn't make sense that the entire movie, there are jump cuts when they aren't recording. But, towards the end, when they finally start mentioning that they are low on battery, when they cut the camera off, it goes black for a couple seconds. It should jump directly to the next footage, just like the rest of the movie.

Side note:  All I could think about the entire time was the kite-eating tree from Charlie Brown.

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