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Jason Widgington [Celluloid 10.28.15] horror

Indie supernatural horror film The Hollow One is one of those movies that seems to get everything right, and yet somehow it just doesn't add up to anything remarkable. Could it possibly be a case where the end product just doesn’t live up to the promise of its trailer? Perhaps this writer’s expectations were just too high for such a promising premise. In any event, as it pertains to The Hollow One, let’s just say that the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. More on this later, but first, what’s it all about?

Rachel (Kate Alden) and her younger sister Anna (Chelsea Farthing) seem to live an idyllic life in a small farming village with their parents, Michael (Tony Doupe) and Linda (Tonya Skoog), but things change one fateful night when Michael receives an ancient artifact whose missing piece is actually Linda’s necklace. Before you can say “Hellraiser!!” things take a turn for the worse and Linda ends up getting killed and Rachel’s boyfriend, Matt (Jesse James), is blamed for it.

This is a very effective set up and it all happens in a relatively short period of time. Two years (and a minute or two of exposition) later, we see that emotionally damaged Rachel and her sister live together in Seattle and have not heard from their father since he practically banished them. Anna is worried about him and the sisters head back home to see him. What they find, though, is an almost deserted town, with those few people remaining seeming to be possessed. Just what did that artifact unleash on the town, and can the sisters – with the help of Matt, who conveniently was released from prison on the same day – stop the demonic force before it's too late?

Writer/director Nathan Hendrickson puts his experience as a writer and director of cinematics on a series of high profile video games to good use on this, his first feature film. Gaming is a medium where cut scenes and cinematics need to explain things in a short amount of time while also wowing gamers with visuals that will hold their attention and make them want to continue playing. Indeed, The Hollow One is a great-looking film with Hendrickson expertly using color and lighting to the story's advantage.

His co-producer, Brian Pamintuan, also worked on those video games as sound designer, and that experience translates nicely to his work here as sound mixer, particularly where it concerns the demonic voices heard throughout. The acting is solid as well, especially Alden, who portrays Rachel's transformation from innocent farm girl, to tortured soul to determined heroine with equal parts subtlety and bombast.

As far as what The Hollow One offers up for horror fans, there's plenty of gore once things really get going, and the inevitable twist at the end is well done, but the film does tend to fall into some unfortunately familiar territory where some of the characters' decision-making is concerned. If you had a checklist of all the things characters in horror films shouldn't do but end up doing anyway, you could easily check off two thirds of them.

Apart from that minor quibble, The Hollow One - a well-acted, solidly produced story dripping in atmosphere that delivers the horror goods - seems to have so much going for it. So, why, you might ask, was I underwhelmed by the film as a whole? It's a difficult question to answer, but everything about it just felt overly familiar, like somebody threw Hellraiser and The Crazies into a pot along with a pinch of Lovecraft and a dash of Freddy Krueger and made a horror film stew. But unlike most good stews, which are delicious and fill you right up, this one left me feeling a little hollow.

Recommended Release: The Crazies

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