A real British spin on the 'found footage' horror subgenre, from Michael Axelgaard
Inevitably, Michael Axelgaard's impressive debut Hollow will be compared to The Blair Witch Project. A low-budget found-footage horror film, dealing with myths, legends and the fear of the unknown, it could quite happily sit alongside the 1999 phenomenon by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez on a double bill. The good news is, while it might not be as nerve-shredding as its predecessor, it’s competent and chilling enough to withstand any comparisons.
With the success of the Paranormal Activity films proving that the ‘found footage’ sub-genre of horror is still alive and well – even if most of the protagonists aren’t – Axelgaard’s film brings a real British spin to the ‘shaky-cam’ style. Four friends spend the weekend together in deepest, darkest Suffolk, led by Emma (Emily Plumtree), returning to her recently-deceased grandfather’s creaky old pile which is situated close to a gothic-looking tree that has been spooking her since childhood.
A popular destination for lovers to commit suicide, this tree – which stands alone in a field, casting an ominous shadowy form against the bleak skies – forms the centrepiece for Hollow. Stories of recent deaths, exorcisms and old myths begin to unsettle the group, which include Emma’s fiancé Scott (Matt Stokoe), ex-boyfriend James (Sam Stockman), who is the one holding the camera, documenting their every move, and his new lady, provocative blonde Lynne (Jessica Ellerby).
Smartly, producer/writer Matthew Holt’s screenplay doesn’t just deal in ghoulish supernatural spook stories. Rather, it’s about group dynamics and fractured friendships, with Axelgaard keeping the scares off camera and in our minds. As paranoia begins to grip the quartet, the final third is full of disorientating, frenzied, in-the-dark scenes that are typical of the ‘found footage’ genre. Some may find this tiresome. But, eschewing the cheap shocks so many horrors use, Axelgaard sustains the tension and dread until the end.
Selected release from Fri 25 Jan.