When two young couples head to Emma's deceased grandfather's cottage to both celebrate her engagement to Scott and pack up the old man's belongings, the young woman can't overcome the looming dread the area invokes in her. Locals whisper of a century old curse centered around a massive tree that's seen more than its share of young lovers swinging from a nooses tied to its branches. Emma's best friend James (Sam Stockman-also acting as the defacto cameraman) comes unglued around the engaged couple. When he's not trying to drive a wedge between Emma and her “rakish” (in an American film he'd be an asshole, but the British accent lends him a certain charm) partner Scott (Matt Stokoe) by going so far as to offer up his own girlfriend Lynne (the impossibly lovely Jessica Ellerby) as temptation, James fantasizes about his past relationship with Emma.
Hollow offers some good moments, but mostly exemplifies the worst in found footage films. Equal parts couples therapy and blurry shots of the camera whipping about in the dark while people run around terrified, Hollow takes heaps of patience to get through at times.
Like many found footage films, most of the recorded material is dull and difficult to justify its being recorded. Padding the runtime with bickering among the friends fails to hold interest and not helped by the petulant, manipulative nature of the characters. For the first two acts the tense bits prove to be false starts, with any potential for danger quashed by an overabundance of jump scares consisting of someone leaping in front of the camera. As found footage films have become the norm in low budget horror, many filmmakers have gotten around the “shaky cam” issue. Hollow is a step backwards in that regard with much of the action too focused on feet sprinting across pavement and wild nausea inducing swinging camera arcs.
Hollow manages to redeem itself in its last act as the scope tightens and events intensify after an hour long tease. Trapped within the confines of a minivan, the remaining members of the group react to what they hear going on around them in the pitch black. Despite some character moments that ring false, there's a claustrophobic mood and the feeling that no matter which action the characters take, their inability to get past their squabbles and come together to a consensus decision is going to doom them. There's also terrific use of sound along with the empty spaces in between each noise as well. Axlegaard also sticks the landing with a shudder inducing capper that ties a slew of narrative threads together.
The remote nature of Suffolk England gives Hollow a location ripe with history that hangs over the proceedings. The few locations used in the film lend themselves to a gothic horror story, in particular the stone ruins surrounding an ancient church and the overgrown hollow tree that provides the centerpiece of the story.
Hollow winds up a mixed bag. The film has a strong central premise but the home footage angle distracts rather than adds to the film. Given the beauty and atmosphere the setting provides, Hollow would have been better suited as a traditional narrative. It's a film that shines for brief moments, but suffers from far too many of this subgenres pitfalls to earn a recommendation.