Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Review: Hollow Creek

Text © Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2018
Images from the Internet

Hollow Creek (aka Haunting in Hollow Creek)
Written, produced, directed by Guisela Moro
Newfoundland Films; First Edge Films;
Cinematic Motion Pictures; FilmRise; MVD Visual
116 minutes, 2016

I love it when I get to see a horror film written and directed by a woman; in this case it’s Latina actor Guisela Moro. She takes a number of different subgenres and mashes them into an expansive story that lasts nearly two hours (usually a long time for an indie flick), which I will now discuss without giving away too many details, of course.

Steve Daron and Guisela Moro
We are introduced to married horror writer Blake Blackmore (dashing Steve Daron, who continually has a Sonny Crockett-type 5 o’clock shadow) and his mistress, Angelica (the lovely Moro), as they head out to a cabin retreat in a not largely populated small town in rural West Virginia (hillbilly genre). It seems some young boys have gone missing recently in the area, but our protagonists are more focused on their work and – err – play.

But it’s very shortly into the story (which is why, in part, I bring it up) that other supernatural happenings start to crop up in the house (haunted house genre) that are somewhat subtle to them, but are used well for jump scare type shock value to the audience. There is also the bit about the trio of missing boys and the investigation into finding them (“Criminal Minds-type genre). They all interplay together well into a comprehensive story with a touch of the supernatural without being overwhelmed by it.

In the first act, the ghostly stuff is well timed because in the beginning there are some dialogue-heavy moments of exposition that drag a bit due to some forced language, such as the over use of the endearing-babble word “babe.” But they are interrupted by those nice scares that livens thing up quite a bit.

Earleen Carey and Alyn Damay
The questions that arose for me were concerning the film’s intentions. Is it a good ghost or a bad ghost? Are the cops the good guys or the bad guys? The only two things that are a given pretty much right from the onset is that Blake and Angie are the side of light, and Leonard (Alyn Darnay) and Margaret Cunnings (Earleen Carey) are the in the dark region. As it’s given away quite early on (and even in the trailer) that it’s the latter, rednecky farm couple who are behind the kidnappings, But again, what are the reasons and intentions for the sinister duo to be carrying out what they are doing? That is part of what kept my interest.

Here is the thing about small towns: they can amazingly rally up behind you, or give a strong cold shoulder if you are (gabba gabba) not one of “them,” meaning if they turn their back on you, it can be isolating. I’ve been through small towns in West Virginia, and other than the Dixie flags a-flyin’, I got along with everyone I met, even as a stranger, but if I had taken an action that was disapproved of by the group by breaking a code of honor, that situation might have turned into something else. When Angie suddenly disappears, Blake gets a taste of this from the locals as he gets blamed for her going poof! in the rainy night in the court of public opinion, thanks to a sensationalist-driven local media (as we were taught, “If it bleeds, it leads”).

When the second act starts, after Angie vanishes from the town (but not from the story), is when the tale really starts to build momentum. While the film centers on the kidnapping story as its core, it manages to not overuse the ghost or hillbilly aspects of it; rather, Moro wisely plies the other two as aspects of the whole story, which actually helps make it stronger. Yeah, there are some gothic clich√©’s, such as a child’s baseball mysteriously and nosily dropping down the stairs, which has been a standard ever since The Changeling in 1980; however, the orb is key to the story, so in this case it’s not just a ghostly announcement of presence.

Do I really need to say who this is?
The big cameo, of course, is Burt Reynolds, who shows up for one decent scene with Daron, and a brief one later on. Now, Daron has announced that Reynolds is one of his acting idols, and the writing credits state that Daron is “collaborating writer.” My guess is he wrote the scene with Reynolds, which just consists of the two of them. I will further posit that while the film was shot in West Virginia, the scene with the frail, then 80-year-old Bandit, was filmed in Florida where Reynolds lives. The second scene just shows the back of the heads of the cops, so I’m guessing all his scenes were added in after the principal shooting. I would say that it is a cool thing.

The one big hole to me is that there is a rifle hidden in the closet where Blake is staying. This makes no sense, as the cops think he is responsible for Angie’s disappearance, wouldn’t they have found the rifle in searching the house? It’s not like it was hidden somewhere, it’s right on the shelf at the top of the closet. I’m just going to put it up to a rookie writing mistake, and mosey on.

The cast is really strong here. Both Moro and Daron carry their roles well, Carey plays woundedly cracked just a tad overboard (though her character, well, actually is), and Darnay definitely steals his scenes as the always seething patriarch of the kept clan. He has this way of moving his mouth as a sign of annoyance (you can see it in the trailer) that says so much about Leonard.

Once past the initial “Hey, babe” scenes, the film turns into a really taut, well-written thriller. Even if one edited out all of the supernatural aspects, the tension would still be on high, and that’s great. Having it in, though, is a boost as a way to take it to another level to apprehension. Plus, the way the film was shot, with the effective lighting (including being able to see the action at night) and slower editing, brings a strong and satisfying end result. I look forward to seeing more of Moro’s work as actor, writer and director. Brava.

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