Rachel Wade left the family farm two years ago for the big city after a tragic accident took the life of her mother. Now living in downtown Seattle the disappearance of her father compels her to return and face her demons. By her side is her bright and slightly naive sister, Anna. Anna and their dad were trying to find out more about their mother`s mysterious past leading up to the accident. Their investigations may have started the incidents which led to their mother and wife's death.
Also returning home is Rachel's ex-boyfriend, Matt, who has spent the last two years in prison for the tragic accident that took her mom's life. Everyone arrives at their respective homes but no one is around. Any indication of activity in the home are some empty milk jugs with remnants of a dark viscous liquid. As the girls try to locate their father Rachel must also deal with Matt`s pleadings for reconciliation. What they discover is that an otherworldly presence has taken up residence in this sleep community
I was introduced to Hendrickson and one of his producers Brian Pamintuan earlier last night so I knew a little of their back story before the film began. Hendrickson's background is in designing videogames. Then he decided that he wanted to do something that he always wanted to do and branch out and make a horror film. What is evident from the get go is that Hendrickson already has under his belt is a firm sense of theatrics and an eye for striking visuals capturing the beautiful Pacific Northwest on screen.
I really appreciated his color palette in the first half of the film. Hendrickson makes excellent use of light and color to capture mood and circumstance. As we move from the big lights of the big city to the isolated fields of Washington farmland the colors become muted and dull, marking the transference from somewhere bright and safe to a place that is dark and forbidding.
You can take the old adage and adapt it to say "You can take the boy away from the console but you cannot take the console..." you get the idea. There is a scene in the film where once the girls have found their father he gives his catch-up story in a monologue and Hendrickson's video game background becomes so evident at that point. This monologue sounds like it was taken right out of one of his video games. When this monologue came up I said to myself, "Ah. There is the video game designer showing his roots".
What The Hollow One has in spades, and makes it stand out from a lot of current horror films, is emotional drive, to a point there is almost too much of it, more than what a horror audience would be used to. If Hendrickson can dial that back and find the right balance of emotion and horror then he can continue to do what few horror film directors can do (or want to?) and that is tap our emotional cores, make us invest with the characters, before yanking our guts out.
I feel the same sort of resonance about The Hollow One as I did about Mike Flanagan's Absentia. Here is a film where the creepiness exists in the mundane; and there is a slow-burn quality to the film. Though to be fair, Hendrickson's film amps up the horror quotient quite a lot more than Flanagan's film did by the end. It is up to Hendrickson to decide though if committing to the execution of that horror should also be a priority for any upcoming films. He had a tendency to pull away from the violent acts being committed on screen in his debut.
Hendrickson understands that his debut film has been a learning experience. What it does show me is that he is a director who has a firmer grasp of emotional context than a lot of horror directors. As Rachel wrestles with the truth about her mom's death and faces off against The Hollow One the drama does teeter towards melodrama and nearly loses its effectiveness (some guffaws from less tolerant audience members either speaks to their maturity or my sense of this edging closely towards that).
Hendrickson's experience in another medium has also given him skills to capture strong visuals and work effortlessly with visual effects. For a debut feature film it shows great promise for Hendrickson who, like only a few others, can seemingly move between videogames and film with ease.
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