By Don Simpson | February 21, 2013
Director: Michael Axelgaard
Writer: Matthew Holt
Starring: Emily Plumtree, Sam Stockman, Matt Stokoe, Jessica Ellerby, Simon Roberts
Emma’s (Emily Plumtree) grandfather has recently passed away, leaving an old house on the Suffolk coastline behind. Assuming it would make for a pleasant country getaway, that is precisely where Emma brings her fiancé Scott (Matt Stokoe), her best friend James (Sam Stockman) and James’ girlfriend Lynn (Jessica Ellerby). Down the road from the house is a spooky old tree that has several centuries worth of ghost stories associated with it. All of the stories share a common outcome: lovers hang themselves from the tree in ritualistic suicide. There have been previous attempts at exorcising the presumed demon(s) from the tree, as documented in a book found in the house titled British Exorcisms Of The Twentieth Century; but considering a recent spat of suicides, those exorcisms were total failures.
Thanks to a not-so-subtle prologue, there is never any doubt as to how precisely Michael Axelgaard’s Hollow will end. (By now, you probably know how much I hate it when films begin by explaining exactly how the story ends.) So, yeah, the foursome is as good as dead before we even meet them. It also comes as no surprise that the foursome quickly comes to odds with each other, thanks to a frothing undercurrent of sexual tension. Of course as the foursome bicker and quarrel, we are lead to believe that their destined hangings may have psychological rather than supernatural root causes. As eerie as the tree appears, we are given absolutely no reason to believe that the tree itself has anything to do with anyone’s death.
Hollow is shot in the style of a first person, found footage video; aiming for some resemblance of uniqueness, Hollow might just be the first found footage horror film about an evil tree. The opening prologue is a police officer’s documentation of the crime scene, and the rest of the film is the home video footage shot with a camera found at the base of the tree. James brought the camera to document the trip (why?) and he rarely stops shooting; and when James isn’t shooting, someone else is (with no electricity in the home, the camera is often running just to function as a light source). Regardless — and this is unfortunately the case with most found footage horror films — the traditional narrative is tightened up by obvious signs of post-production.
Axelgaard does make very effective use of the forced sense of tunnel vision formed by shooting in the dark with no source of light other than the camera itself. Putting us directly in the shoes of the characters — whose visions are severely hampered by darkness — we never know precisely what (if anything) is lurking just outside of our field of vision. This allows Axelgaard to throw a lot of well-formulated jolts and scares at us; so if anything, there is a good chance that Hollow will actually frighten you. In the end, is that not the primary function of horror films?