out of Five
Running time: 91
Watchable, well-acted British found-footage horror that generates a suitably creepy atmosphere and pulls off a couple of decent scary moments, but the found-footage conceit wears very thin and the plot never really comes together.
What's it all about?
Directed by Michael Axelgaard, Hollow is a British found-footage horror that begins with a videoed police report describing a grisly scene where a number of people were found hanging from the same tree. The footage then switches to images from a camera that was found at the scene, with two couples – Emma (Emily Plumtree), Scott (Matt Stokoe), Emma's best friend James (Sam Stockman) and his partner Lynne (Jessica Ellerby) – embarking on a weekend in the Suffolk countryside together, at Emma's grandparents' old house.
However, tensions within the group are soon revealed as it becomes clear that James hasn't been well recently and that he still harbours feelings for Emma from when they were together years ago. And things quickly go from bad to worse when the group discover a disturbing local legend surrounding a creepy-looking tree and James starts behaving increasingly strangely.
The acting is solid throughout, with all four actors generating a convincing group dynamic that works well. Plumtree and Stokoe are particularly good, while both Ellerby and Stockman impress more in the latter half of the film than early on, partly because Stockman is behind the camera for much of the running time.
The film has some nice ideas and gets round some of the obvious criticisms (such as why they don't get the hell out of there at the first sign of trouble) in inventive ways, such as an early night of tree-induced weirdness being jointly written off as a bad trip because they were all on cocaine at the time. Similarly, Axelgaard maintains an effectively creepy atmosphere throughout and the film does at least pull off a few genuinely scary moments; it also benefits from grounding its scariest moments in reality, such as a character having an asthma attack and being unable to find their inhaler.
The main problem with the film is that, having set up the spooky tree so effectively, the script then seems rather embarrassed about the whole thing and never really integrates the supposedly supernatural elements into the story; indeed, everything scary that happens is basically down to one character going off the rails, but, confusingly, that character isn't the one who's had the most contact with the tree.
On top of that, the pacing drags early on and it's also fair to say that the found-footage element quickly wears thin; for example, there are far too many 'Why are you still filming?' moments, even with the frequent attempts at justification, like needing the light on the camera.
Hollow is a watchable British horror enlivened by strong performances and a handful of decent scares, though it's a shame the script refuses to exploit the potential of its initial set-up.