Thursday, May 5, 2016

THE HOLLOW (2015) [Joe's Take]

...And the monster squishes his head...

Have you ever had a nightmare where something was chasing you, but your feet were stuck in quicksand? Well, what if instead of being slow physically, you were slow mentally? The Hollow explores this question, pitting three histrionic sisters and a few idiot townsfolk against a burning tree monster.

The result is a film in which the scares are generated by the jangling missteps of the protagonists rather than the shambling menace of the monster.

Speaking of the protagonists, Sarah, Marley, and Emma are on a trip to their aunt's New England island cabin. The goal is rest and relaxation for Emma, who saw their parents burn to death in a car accident and has been having psychic dreams ever since!

Little do they know, whenever there is a storm on Halloween a tree monster attacks and kills everyone on the island. The goal is to survive until the day after Halloween, when the tree monster will go away.

For people who keep track of Netflix horror tropes, there are a few to point out:

Dysfunctional siblings take a trip (Pod)
To a cabin in the woods (Pod | The Veil | Curve)
Something bad happens every Halloween (Pay the Ghost)
Because witches were burnt (Pay the Ghost)
There's an off-screen whimper dog death (Pod | Lazarus Effect)

The tree monster is pretty original; no other movie we've watched had a monster made of vines. BUT...none of its powers are really tree powers. It doesn't sap people, or fall on them, and it isn't afraid of fire. Instead, it travels through sewer drains and air ducts, and somehow kills people by burning them because it's got fire powers.

At the very least, you'd think it would occasionally blend in with the other trees and be a part of the scenery until you noticed one of the trees is moving because it's the TREE MONSTER *SCREEEEEE*...but no. The tree factor is mostly aesthetic, and the monster really behaves like the xenomorph from aliens and kind of looks like Venom from the Spider-Man comics.

Even though the tree monster kills everyone, there aren't any great deaths in The Hollow. In fact, out of everyone who dies, you only see three people actually get killed. In one case, a woman is ejected out of the front door of a house and flies about 40 feet through the air before landing on the front lawn. I give it a 7.5, with positive marks for distance, velocity, and spontaneity.

In the other, a guy's head is crushed by the tree monster. It's one of those "grabbed by the head, feet off the ground, blood running down" deaths that happens in a lot of movies. However, I'd like to unpack it because it's actually a fitting culmination of the events that lead up to it.

So, in this scene a group of survivors are at the Sheriff's station loading up on guns to fight the tree monster. They've identified drag marks on the ground, they think the tree monster is taking people somewhere, and they want to go rescue them. When they find a map, Sarah asks:

"You said that all the drag marks were headed in the same direction? Which direction was that?"

The handsome survivor guy begins drawing marks:

Those are definitely all pointing in the same direction! We're getting somewhere! What else do you have, handsome survivor guy? (Going to enlarge the next two so you can see them clearly). ENHANCE IMAGE!

Oooh, there's a lot more of this island than I thought! And those are all the drag marks they've seen! To put the absurdity of this situation in proper perspective, I need to ENHANCE AGAIN:

Thank goodness for those drag marks, right? They wouldn't know where to look without them! They've really narrowed things down to the Western and Northern parts of the island. And some of the South. Really, everything but the Southeast corner where they currently are.

But, what the hell, right? Sarah just goes ahead and says "What's right here?"

And the sassy local girl says "Nothing but forest.......OH WAIT. A POWER STATION IS RIGHT HERE." This guess is so unlikely, it sets the map on fire. Because why not, right?

Wait a second. Why IS the map on fire? What could possibly be doing that? Let's look closer for a clue!

And the monster squishes his head.

It turns out that the monster is NOT taking its victims to the power station. It's taking them to the witch burning site, but that just HAPPENS to be 50 feet from the power station, and they stumble upon it when they drive all the way out there.

There is one other scene in The Hollow that is almost so bad you have to see it for yourself. I should go into it, because it deals directly with the most excruciating fact about The Hollow: that the monster is drawn by sound and the sisters Never. Stop. Screaming. One survivor is trying to point this out to them. But they can't hear her over all the screaming. And then the monster shows up and kills the survivor.

Questions for Paul:

1. Dude, what must that witch have looked like in real life? 

PH: Oh, the tree monster was the witch?  I thought it was just the witches' revenge-plant or something.  I have no visual image of the witches themselves, except that I picture them wearing garden clogs for some reason.  I bet they were great with perennials.
2. Except they burned a bunch of witches. Was this just one of them? Were the others not really witches then?

PH:  I see we're on different pages here.  I think they were all definitely witches because the dude who said they were was a blogger.  His entire purpose was to EXPLAIN THE BACKSTORY, brood, and die.  So I'm listening to him!  He's a blogger, after all, and blogs are infallible founts of knowledge, as we all know.

3. Why is fire always a power of witches? Isn't it really their main weakness?

PH:  Yeah, and why was the tree all excited to be in good with the witches?  Don't witches make brooms out of twigs and shrubbery and such?

Somewhat off topic, I'm struck by how the place where they burned the witches 200 years ago is still intact with the stakes and everything.  When you burn a witch at the stake, doesn't the stake burn too?  Or do you try to put the fire out really quickly so the stake can be reused later?   

4. Would you have gone in the freezer? 

PH:  This is a question that our readers won't get unless they've seen the movie.  Which is all of them, probably.  And by all, I mean, zero.  But let me explain what Joe's getting at: a bunch of survivors have a fight over whether or not to hole up in a restaurant freezer to protect themselves.  A couple do and it turns out to be the wrong choice, since the tree is a vegetable and isn't scared of freezers (in fact, freezers extend vegetables' shelf life--yikes!).

So I'm fairly certain that I wouldn't have gone in there, especially with two younger white paranoid gentlemen carrying guns.  That's going from the frying pan into the freezer!  *groan*  

 5. Did you recognize the aunt? 

PH:  No . . . *goes to look her up* . . . Deborah Kara Unger.  Huh.  And she was in Silent Hill which is mediocre movie based on a really great video game!  All of which makes me think, when will The Hollow: The Video Game be released?  Press A to scream.  Press B to fall all over yourself.  Press A and B at the same time to "act."

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