Hollow (Michael Axelgaard, 2011)
Sometimes, during those brief moments of lucidity when my head clears a little and I can step back from the Netflix Instant queue, I ask myself why it is I continue to watch movies in subgenres that were played out before they even got popular. I never come up with a good answer to the question (and I’m never lucid long enough to go digging, really). Case in point: the found-footage film, an offpsring of the mockumentary that is, ultimately, an offshoot of the popularity of 1999’s The Blair Witch Project. I’ve seen maybe a half-dozen found-footage films I would consider watching a second time; I’ve seen maybe one hundred found footage films overall. Hollow is not only not one of the half-dozen, it’s a movie I would consider using as an instrument of torture were I a guard at the Salt Pit. Pointless, plotless, presumably scriptless nonsense that almost dares the viewer to keep watching to see how much worse things are going to get. Guess what? The answer is “a lot”.
Plot: Two couples are on vacation on the English moors. Okay, maybe not moors. But that sound spookier. It’s actually quite dry for England. And maybe not vacation, either; they’ve come to sort out a dead relative’s estate. Dead relative is a priest, and estate is… an old abbey? I think it was an old abbey. While they’re on their way there, they pass a big old gnarled tree, and Emma (Emily Plumtree in her first feature appearance) relates the story of how the tree is possessed blah blah. Emma, her beau James (The Task‘s Sam Stockman), and their pals Lynne (Get Him to the Greek‘s Jessica Ellerby) and Scott (Devil’s Pass‘ Matt Stokoe—no relation to the writer, at least I fervently hope not), arrive at the old pile and spend a few entirely uninteresting days trying to keep a clichéd script afloat (predictable sexual tension between non-couple pieces, growing obsession with the tree, things that go bump in the night) before, of course, they must all go confront the tree and find out if it’s really possessed or if the scriptwriters were just ripping off The Blair Witch Project.
You get all the usual lowlights from a movie like this, people running around and screaming incoherently, usually off-camera, while something that you never quite get to see is chasing them. Now, I am a big, big fan of not revealing the monster; the one scene I didn’t like in Cloverfield (and yes, I do realize I am the only person who really liked that movie, shut up about it) is the one Big Reveal scene at the end that’s there solely to stop the masses complaining that you never get to see the monster. (Compare with the excellent scene in Val Lewton’s Cat People in Central Park, where you get a few glimpses of shadow at best; it is a textbook in how to create suspense.) So when I’m complaining about it, you know you’ve got problems. Much of the problem has to do with the fact that, during the action scenes, we’re not really seeing much of the characters, either; Axelgaard seems to have decided that the movie would be more suspenseful if you couldn’t see the characters or the thing chasing them. Not a bad experiment, but he probably should have changed direction once he realized how incredibly stupid it ends up looking. You, too, would be better served by avoiding such. (zero)