This is the first feature from director Joh Zhao. A mysterious illness is striking inhabitants of an American City, and nobody know why. When his girlfriend, Shelley (Jennie Epland) is close to death, Mitch (Kyle Walters) behind to desperately search for a rumoured cure. This search takes him into the dark underground of the City, where he meets Trixie (Julia Max) and her drug-dependent family.
The film is, strikingly, shot using various different formats. This is cleverly used to illustrate the differing mental states of the characters. Zhao shows great skill with this – some of the film is really incredibly beautiful (Although this doesn’t come across so well in the trailer below. It must need a big screen for the full effect). Colour, light and movement are also used extremely well, helping to build mood. The only shots in bright light are when Mitch is at work (a pharmacy), and even then we only see this section of the world as a series of stills.
Additionally, the music has a massive impact. Some of it beautiful violin, guitar or piano, and some of it more complex soundscapes. It all creates an all-encompasing world and heightens the drama and the experiences of the characters.
The only thing that lets the film down is that, other than Mitch and Trixie, the characters feel a little two-dimensional.
Overall, however, I found the film to be intense, intriguing and a stunning debut from all involved.
A ‘found footage’ horror film, set around an evil tree. A British BLAIR WITCH? No, actually, much better than that.
Four pretty young things decide to spend the weekend together out in a fairly desolate part of Suffolk. Whilst there, they discover a sinister tree, and some legends about the tree – as well as the fact that many couples have hung themselves from those ancient branches.
The actors are all superb. I really can’t praise them enough – the characters are all rounded, and their relationships believable. Some of the scenes are fairly long, too, and the actors manage to keep the realism and the tension throughout.
Despite obvious budget restraints, the film is very stylish (in a good way). There has clearly been a lot of though given to making a standard ‘camcorder footage’ film look good, while remaining natural. In fact, this is undoubtedly the most natural ‘found footage’ film that I’ve seen.
What impressed me the most about HOLLOW, however, was just how old-school it is. The horror doesn’t come from violence and gore, or from CGI creations, but from our fear of the unknown. A great deal of the screen is dark for huge portions of the film – we can’t see what may be out there.
For me the only let down was the finale, which felt rushed after such a long build-up.
HOLLOW deserves to be seen as much more than a basic BLAIR WITCH knock-off. For a first feature, I’m very impressed. There is a lot of talent on display here.
I picked this as a bit of a wild card, as something out of my normal range. I’m so glad I did.
The film introduces us to a particular strain of American indie music, known as DIY. Our guide is one performer in particular – Viking Moses – who has been touring for years. He is seen as an ‘Obi-Wan’ figure by those around him. He knows all, and yet success is still eluding him. We follow him though a tour, we see him at his best, and then full of doubt. He, along with all of the other artists that get a portrait in the film, is relaxed around the film-makers Edward Lovelace & James Hall, who clearly fit into that world rather well. This is a real strength of the film, as it means that everyone opens up. We really get an intimate insight into the tour, and into how each artist approaches their work.
The film also touches on some wider social problems – how there is a generation growing up in parts of America where a normal 9-5 is just not possible. I really came out thinking about how aspirations and hope can be so easily lost, but also how they can give us strength. More than anything, the film is a celebration of these people who believe so strongly in what they are doing, that they will keep going no matter what.
Whatever you think of the music that is being played, you will find yourself caring very much for everyone in the film, and may even be a little inspired.
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN LIFE IS NOT BEING DEAD
First let me say that this film is GORGEOUS. A Spanish/Swiss film, the look is clearly inspired by a mix of classic Film Noir and Catalan art.
The essence of the story is that Jacobo is a piano tuner with a secret – he doesn’t actually tune any pianos. He just goes to sleep, and wakes up to find that the pianos have been tuned.
The film jumps between the past and the present, and we learn that there is another man living in the house – in a hidden basement.
Of course, everything is a little more complicated than this.
The film is shot in black and white, which really emphasises some of the Film Noir quality, and creates a tangible sense of threat and mystery. The only use of colour – and still limited and muted – is in Jacobo’s dreams. Although having little to do with the main story, these provide a strong emotional backdrop for the film.
The music is also very important, and very beautiful, with some great piano and guitar work.
There is a lot to digest in this film – fear of ageing, and change, a dash of politics, and plenty of relationship baggage. I couldn’t really read any central message though, and that is perhaps its only real failure.
A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP
Mia (Jodie Whittaker) is dealing with the death of her Mother, when an elderly neighbour commits suicide by jumping from a window. Distraught, Mia begins to investigate the old woman – someone she had never noticed before.
Quickly, things take an intriguing and sinister turn, as she discovers her own belongings in the woman’s flat, including a photo of her ex-lover, Ludwig (Dougray Scott).
Deeply unsettled, Mia speaks to the caretaker Max (David Warner), who seems to know far more than he is letting on. He explains that the lift in the building is, in fact, a time machine. (This small info-dump was a little clumsy, though.)
Mia travels back through momentous occasions in her life, coming to terms with her mistakes and faults, and her strong affection for an abusive partner. She is desperately trying to avoid the future that fate seems to have in store for her.
There are great performances throughout. Jodie Whittaker manages to portray the fragile Mia, we feel her weakness as well as her strength. The eventual desperation in her character is believable.
Dougray Scott will be given a great deal of praise for his portrayal of abusive, roguish Ludwig. His control over Mia is understandable. Going from bully to lover, all with a sparkle in his eye.
The film is shot in a very assured manner by Director Dana Lustig. The use of music – jazz specifically – is something that appeals to me in particular. It creates a romance and has a timeless quality which helps to tie the various different ages of Mia together.
The film is an interesting analysis of Mia’s character. It wasn’t surprising to learn in the Q&A following the screening that various psychoanalytic processes were used to create the narrative. Revisiting important moments from our past, working out how that makes us who we are today. Although the film is forced to simplify it into an easy structure, it is an interesting device. I felt that this really helps to lift the film into being something a little special, and well worth some attention.