Undoubtedly the most heart-pounding film you’ll ever see with a “Fungal Research Advisor” listed in the credits, The Hallow fuses together a series of opposites—science and folklore, civilization and wilderness, model-work and CGI effects—for its superb, seething scares. Botanist Adam (Joseph Mawle) has moved from London to the backwoods of Ireland with his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and their baby Finn in order to survey trees in a recently privatized forest. As might be expected, their new neighbors give them the typical horror-movie (or just small-town) treatment, staring them down at every opportunity and warning against unleashing the ancient evil out in the woods.
Corin Hardy and co-writer Felipe Marino don’t beat around the bush, and the increasingly vicious attacks on the Hitchens clan (who are perhaps named after hyper-rationalist Christopher) are unambiguous: the sentient pitch-black sap and brambles that invade their home, spread across their car’s engine, and form into a creepy effigy of Finn make the horror a matter of when rather than a whodunit. After the skeptical Adam finally accepts that he’s dealing with the supernatural, the story more closely follows the strange logic of a myth, not unlike Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves. Instead of building towards a single, distinct climax, there are multiple horrors—including a synthesis of humans and monstrous woodland fairies—that spiral out in sad, frightening, and unexpected directions.