Hollow, not to be confused with The Hollow, opens with a quote from Guy de Maupassant “Our memory is a more perfect world than the universe; it gives back life to those who no longer exist.” Fittingly it leads into a scene of Beth (Pat Garrett, 18% Grey, All Those Things) talking to her husband Ken (Keith Temple) who has been dead for some time. And just as she sees the dead, she doesn’t remember her living friends who come to visit.
Beth is suffering from dementia and it’s getting worse, to the point where her daughter Jess (Ellie Jeffreys, Angry Nazi Zombies, Traffik) and her husband Connor (Pete Bird) decide to buy a place large enough that she can live with them. That’s with a bit of help from her of course, as their finances are in the shitter.
If this sounds a bit more like a drama than a horror film, director Jonathan Zaurin (Gore Grind, Portraits) and writer Keith Temple (Eastenders, Dr. Who) have a lot to say on the subject of aging and dementia. However, this isn’t another drama being pawned off as a horror film as we get news footage talking about a serial killer as well as the killer at work, doing some very odd things to their victims.
Shot under the much better title Wyvern Hill, the title that was on the screener I saw, Hollow isn’t a film that gives itself away easily and I was constantly trying to figure out whether what I was seeing was real or in Beth’s mind. And if it is in her mind was it a memory, a nightmarish hallucination or a vision of the future?
Beth is terrified of puppets, and it eventually becomes clear that the killer is turning his victims into human puppets. He also seems to be making a Punch and Judy mask. Are these memories of the events that caused her fear? Is her fear fueling her hallucinations? Or are these killings happening in the here and now, and the two stories will eventually converge? Things we hear on the radio suggest it’s actually happening, but how much of what we see is objective, and how much is in Beth’s mind?
The scenes of Beth’s day-to-day life are handled with a lot more subtlety and feeling than in many films like this. Given the writer’s background in soap operas, I was worried that those scenes would resemble one. I shouldn’t have Temple gives these scenes the sensitivity and intelligent presentation they deserve. Combined with an excellent performance by Garret they make this aspect of the plot as interesting as the outright horror elements.
And to be sure, Hollow doesn’t pull its punches during the scenes of carnage either. It may not be as spectacular as the one in Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, but there’s a scene with a drill press that will get your attention. Even the less explicit scenes have a nasty edge that made my skin crawl at times. And the film’s finale has several macabre images, including the most disturbing puppetry I’ve seen since Possum, that will stick with me for quite a while.
Shot over twenty-five days on a four-figure budget, Hollow looks like it cost a lot more. Acting as his own cinematographer Zaurin gets a lot of mileage out of a few sets and some red and blue filters. Along with the bizarre plotting and a few images that are reminiscent of Argento, it gives the film a Giallo edge. Apart from maybe being a few minutes overlong at an hour and fifty minutes, there’s not much I can fault Hollow for. It’s a nasty little cinematic puzzle that kept me guessing and left me unsure of a few things even after it was over. Both touching and incredibly brutal, Hollow has some images that will stick with me for a long time.