Friday, April 29, 2016

THE HOLLOW (2015) [Paul's Review]

...What’s more wonderful is that, in a movie about a killer tree, no one even notices that it’s a tree!...

The Hollow is a made-for-TV movie about a killer tree.  Before you snicker, think about it, trees are everywhere. They stand around your house silently, looking in your windows, judging you as you throw out the yellow pages (honestly, why do I still get those?), wantonly go through paper towels, or just brazenly burn succulent woodflesh in your fireplace . . . for ambiance!

Yep, the killer tree premise is killer, and the first 10 seconds of The Hollow are promising.  There’s a shot of a jack-o-lantern on the main street of a small town, and nothing sucks yet!  Then a dog barks at a tree. . . which is totally a-ok!  Yet as good as the pumpkin, dog, and tree are in these opening moments, everything gets ruined when, 42 seconds into the movie, humans show up and begin the agonizing process of “acting” and “telling the story.” Without humans or plot, The Hollow might have been merely an inert lump, not an unwatchable abomination of expository dialogue and imbecilic characters caught in a contrived story that unbelievably forgets to explain why there is a killer tree in the first place.

So here they are, the three best scenes/actors/things from The Hollow, all from the first 42 seconds:
The pumpkin

The dog

The tree
So now that you've seen the best parts, I'd understand if you pass on the rest.  Read on, however, if you want me to break The Hollow down to its little twiggy details.

The story follows three sisters, who, despite several warnings, insist on visiting their aunt who lives on an island.  The youngest sister has psychic dreams where she is able to see into the future, for no apparent or explained reason.  The two older sisters bicker throughout the movie, seemingly competing for the title of most-gratifying-to-be-seen-get-hit-upside-the-head-with-a-tree-branch.  The sisters are difficult to root for, not only because their acting generally comprises of various degrees of widening their eyes, but also because their characters seem liable to stab themselves in said eyes out of the crippling case of self-destructive idiocy that they have been saddled with.

For instance, when the sisters arrive at the island, they disregard several OMINOUS WARNINGS.  And then they get lost on the island, EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE A ROADMAP.  And then they run out of gas simply because NO ONE WAS PAYING ATTENTION.  Then, for no apparent reason, they get scared and run, leading to sister #2 faceplanting on the asphalt. 

Does it hurt worse because you were running from nothing?
Surprisingly, these are the three humans that survive the first night of killer tree terror that wipes out mostly everyone else. In the morning they inspect their dead aunt’s truck, and decide that this is how they will get away.  This sets up an incredible set of events that we can call THE SIPHONING CHALLENGE.

1.  They run out of gas.

2.  They find a truck with gas in it.  Also their dead aunt.  What will they do?

3.  Sister #2 has an idea!  She finds a hose and a pail!

4.  They go out to siphon the gas out of their aunt’s truck to put into their own gasless car.  This is eyebrow-raising for two reasons: (A) I’m not sure that a full-length garden hose and a milk pail are the right tools for this job, and perhaps slightly more puzzling . . . (B)  Why not just take the aunt’s truck itself?

5.  But then the sisters notice that their car is gone.  It’s just gone!  How?  Why?  Presumably the killer tree moved the car in order to get the sisters to notice the much easier solution of simply taking their aunt’s truck.  Here the tree is helping them by taking away their bad ideas!  It’s like a Shel Silverstein story!

6.  They finally, begrudgingly, take the aunt’s truck, but continue to bicker.  Sister #1 doesn’t watch the road.

9.  THUMP!  They hit someone!  OMG!  It’s like that asphalt faceplant all over again.

10.  They get out of the truck.  Sister #2 looks at the body and says, “hitting him didn't do that” which is presumptuous and probably false.  You just hit them with a truck.  It's just like these sisters to blame it on the tree. 

11.  They get back in the truck, but now sister #3 has wandered off again!  Doh!

And thusly ends THE SIPHONING CHALLENGE in which in the course of confronting the terrific challenge of running out of gas, the sisters (a) need a tree to point out that they can take another truck, (b) hit and kill an innocent bystander, and (c) lose their sister who stymies their escape plan by running away from the truck that has gas in it.

And it isn't like the sisters don't get help.   Almost every other character on the island is basically just a walking, bleeding, OMINOUS WARNING.  Yet all of the advice that goes unheeded. . .

1. The Grocer:  "Maybe they should just wait" 
(they don't)
2.  The Ferryman:  "The island’s not somewhere you want to be"
(they force him to take them to the island)

3.  Broody Boy:  "I’d stay off that island"
(they get on that island)

4.  Unnamed Bleeding Woman:  "You must hide!"
(they run for it) 

5.  Grocer, Now Bleeding:  "Get out of here!"
(having delivered his message again, immediately dies of futility)

6.  Unnamed Bleeding Woman #2:  "Shhh!  Be Quiet!" 
(they grunt and scream and shout until the tree comes and kills bleeding woman #2) 

The sisters never listen and end up getting everyone killed.  Even the little sister with psychic powers doesn't listen to her own warning.  For she prophesizes that her sisters will die by trying to find her.  In order to avoid this fate, when she runs away, she warns them not to look for her.  But what if, oh I don't know, SHE DIDN’T RUN AWAY IN THE FIRST PLACE? 

Oh, and if you’re confused about why the girl can see the future in a movie about a killer tree, you are not alone.  If you’re wondering about the killer tree itself, it has something to do with witches but the vital witch-tree link seems just out of this movie's reach.  What’s more wonderful is that, in a movie about a killer tree, no one even notices that it’s a tree!

But back to the psychic girl.  At the very end of the movie, the tree is menacing sister #2.  But then the little sister shows up (she was told to run away, but no one listens to anyone in this movie).  She looks at the tree and says, “Time to die you bastard!”  Then she scurries to one side, letting daylight shine on the tree, which kills it.

But wait a minute, you think, how did she know what would happen before it happened?  (And you’re not even, by this point, even going to worry about the fact that the sister, by blocking the light, put her sister in danger in order to save her).  But then it hits you like a swatch of dead branches.  She’s psychic!  Thus it is revealed:  THE WHOLE POINT OF MAKING THE LITTLE GIRL PSYCHIC WAS TO MAKE THAT ONE-LINER PLAUSIBLE.

If you’re going to build a giant plot contrivance just to make one line possible, wouldn’t you want that line to be better than, “Time to die, you bastard”?  Can’t we think up some good arboreal-themed one-liners?  Something like “Get deforested, two-ply!”  Or “Count your rings, because you’ve had your last one!”  Or, “Hope you like Swedish meatballs, because you’re headed to IKEA!”  Or, "That's the last time you throw shade!"

Maybe I've been a little harsh on The Hollow.  It's a made-for-TV Syfy movie for chrissakes.  The killer tree chomping on people is somewhat satisfying.  And there's that pumpkin, that dog, and that tree, after all.  We'll always have that first 42 seconds, The Hollow, and I won't let my weird bias for protagonists with human-like competency ever take those away from us.
Questions for Joe:

1.  Can you think of a better tree-themed one-liner to end the movie with?

JD: *Said in a whiper* "Timmmber."

Or maybe "In your future, I see paper."

Or possibly "If I were you, I'd be leafing!"

2.  Even if they got the gas into the pail, how were they going to pour it into their car? 

JD: To get the gas into the pail, she was going to have to suck it through an 18 foot garden hose. That would have been the dumbest thing ever! Thanks a lot, tree monster.

3.  Why was the monster a tree?

JD: At least it wasn't a booger. We've had two booger monsters now out of like 10 movies. We haven't had ANY tree monsters, and probably won't have any others. That said, when they were arming themselves for battle against the tree, did it occur to you that guns were a bad choice? The right choice is obviously a chainsaw, and no weapon is more welcome in horror movies than the chainsaw. Then again, this is the movie where they tried to siphon gas with a garden hose.

4.  Near the end, sister #1 tries to trap the tree by shutting it inside a room with her and LATCHING THE DOOR FROM THE INSIDE.  Did she really think that the tree wasn’t going to be able to UNLATCH THE DOOR FROM THE INSIDE after it killed her?

JD: This thing isn't a velociraptor, it's a freakin' tree. Doors are made of it. How's it going to open one?

5.  Which of the three main actresses has the best shot at a future acting career?

JD: Well, not the older one. I thought she was a little...wooden! *high, queer, fey laugh*

6.  Why did I use so many all-caps in my review?  WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?

JD: I'm pretty sure every line of dialog in The Hollow was in all-caps. I'M SURE THERE'S A CONNECTION THERE!

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