Hollows Grove (2014) Film Review, a movie directed by Craig Efros, and starring Mykelti Williamson, Lance Henriksen, Matthew Carey, Sunkrish Bala, Bresha Webb, Val Morrison, Matt Doherty, and Eddie Perez.
Although found footage films have remained popular for the 15 years since the success of The Blair Witch Project, the availability of low-cost film making tools and digital cameras has created a recent explosion in the production of movies within the genre. The majority of these films sit somewhere between forgettable and disastrous, which makes sense, as the genre is only 15-years old and still trying to find a voice amidst its artistic adolescence. No film exemplifies this as much as Hollows Grove which is the cinematic equivalent of an adolescent boy that tries so hard to be like his cool older brother that he loses all the parts of himself that make him unique.
Usually at this point in a review, I like to summarize the movie that I’m discussing to provide the reader context for my feelings about the film. Hollows Grove is so creatively uninspired and derivative of other found footage horror movies that I’m going to go the “Hollows Grove route” and just copy and paste the film’s summary from its IMDB page.
“A young filmmaker documents his ghost-hunting, reality show friends as their routine investigation of an abandoned orphanage turns into a nightmare from which they can’t escape.”
The central premise of this movie is that a team of fake, reality show ghost hunters let a documentary filmmaker film them in the act of perpetuating their lies (because he just went through a break-up). That is really all you need to know.
A well-made genre film defies our expectations, subverts familiar tropes and expands the boundaries of how we define that genre. Rather than presenting a compelling story that happens to fall into a specific genre, Hollows Grove defines itself by clinging to genre tropes so adamantly that the film borders on parody. Hollows Grove plays out as if the script was lifted from, “An Idiot’s Guide To Making Found Footage Horror Films”. Director Craig Efros does not insert a single original concept into the film in order to differentiate it from the dozens of found footage films that came before it. The lack of originality would be less of an issue if the film were successful in being scary, funny or entertaining in any way.
A technically flawed film can overcome its shortcomings through humor, engaging characters and a compelling story in order to provide an entertaining overall experience. What’s most disappointing about Hollows Grove is that it doesn’t even try to offer any of the aforementioned elements. A found footage film lives and dies by the performances and Hollows Grove’s cast of characters were so abhorrent that I began to sincerely wonder if the film was directing me toward rooting for the murderous, child molesting ghosts (yeah, that’s a thing in this movie). Lance Henriksen turns in the closest thing that this film has to a notable performance and he has less than 5-minutes of screen time.
Hollows Grove is not a film that stands in the shadows of better films so much as it settles down in them, takes out a mortgage and raises its garbage family. This is the most singularly unimaginative, bland and creatively adjacent example of a genre film that I have experienced in 2014. Hollows Grove is not the worst film that I have seen this year but it may just be the worst experience that I have had watching a film. I would much rather watch a film that takes risks and fails miserably than this hackneyed drivel that had me counting down the minutes until it was over. At least a bad film can be interesting.
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