While searching for her missing father, an emotionally damaged woman confronts her tragic past and a shadowy figure with sinister intentions.
Persistent technological advances see video games and social media taking on an increasingly prominent role in everyday life sapping the social skills out of all those who dare to use them. Whilst I’m just as intravenously hooked up to Twitter and Facebook as the next man, it only really struck me just how enslaving it really is when I had kids, especially when I see my 4-year-old daughter slouched on the sofa navigating iDevices as if she womb-shared with an iPad mini for nine months.
Case in point, intentional or not, video game-turned-movie director Nathan Hendrickson’s directorial debut, The Hollow One, waves an acerbic commentary on technology’s soul stealing prowess under our noses. Maybe I’m reading too far between the lines given the fact the film’s narrative is anything but technology specific but the CGI enhanced, self-conscious antagonist hell-bent on stealing souls would certainly suggest technology’s ill effects were troubling Hendrickson’s thoughts during the writing process. At its core the script tackles grief and culpability but sadly, whilst the setup had all the makings of a serious slice of thought-provoking cinema, the psychological connotations are massively underplayed resulting in a decidedly hollow film that plays out more like a stylistic exercise than anything else.
Instantly noticeable are the first time director’s teeth-cutting days in the gaming industry with proverbial go-to gaming constructs reigning supreme from the eerie derelict township, the toing and froing between the protagonists’ and evil entity’s viewpoints and the aforementioned CGI-augmented adversary, each with varying effectiveness.
The Hollow One certainly overcompensates its narrative shortcomings with eye candy overkill but Connor Hair’s raw cinematography is nothing shy of stunning as he forges a desolate and chilling backdrop out of the plagued farming town which almost makes amends for the film’s tepid antagonist. The real wow factor though are the segues made up of some absolutely arresting, albeit superfluous, photography showcasing Hair’s keener than keen eye for detail. The ominous soundscape created by Nathan Grigg and Brian Pamintuan serves up an equally foreboding sensation and it’s no surprise Hendrickson brought them along for the ride, having working with them previously on the gaming scene.
Whilst the production values work well for the most part it’s the evil entity itself that turns out to be the film’s major stumbling block. Whilst I was willing to let The Hollow One’s CGI face pass it was his insipid gravelly tones as the yarn-spinning narrator that made sure he came across as anything but terrifying, which is a real shame. If they’d have done away with the whole narrator prattle the film would have packed that much more of an unnerving wallop.
Despite the iffy evil entity, the live-action cast all put in sound performances piloted by Kate Alden and Chelsea Farthing who share an on-screen grieving sister chemistry that’s hard not to invest in although a bit of extra emotional baggage exploitation would have been warmly welcomed. Whatever the case, Alden remains on fine form following another film featuring an ambiguous evil relic called The Device and, should the right role permit, I hope she goes far as she certainly deserves to.
A last minute curveball also shirks predictability making sure the audience doesn’t leave with a bitter taste in their mouths and the sequel-suggesting climax isn’t as daunting as this review might have you believe. Sadly squandering what could have been a provocative psychological narrative in favour of an over reliance on visuals, the Hollow One ends up having more issues than Vogue. That said, Hendrickson still gets a chance to flaunt his mastery when it comes to eerie atmospherics and his direction is solidly supported by a cast of committed performers who added some much-needed ballast to the premise.
Packing a juicier script and prioritising substance over style next time round, Hendrickson should conjure up something that really does manage to creep under our skin to secure the reputability that he probably deserves.
Words: Howard Gorman (@HowardGorman)