The creature feature “The Hallow” centers on two invasive species: woodland monsters that steal babies and invade their hosts on a cellular level; and man, whose environmental depredations precipitate the first horror.
English conservationist Adam (Joseph Mawle of “Game of Thrones”) takes a job in Ireland to survey trees slated for deforestation, moving with his wife (Bojana Novakovic) and baby into an old house in the middle of the very woods he’s marked for removal. Predictably, Adam runs afoul of the locals, who are hostile for environmental reasons, as well as the fear of a more supernatural reprisal: Also living in the woods are demonic beings that will be upset by these interlopers.
As is traditional in monster movies, the filmmakers don’t let us get a good look at the creepy banshees and humanoid beasts until well into the film, first introducing their destruction in the form of ominous black growths that snake into house and automobile. Unfortunately, the film also follows the tradition of characters that heedlessly put themselves or each other in danger — in this case, leaving an infant so alone and vulnerable that it’s almost as if they’re presenting it to the woods as a sacrificial offering.
Although the atmospheric film has a few good jump scares, much of its power derives from the anxiety of fighting off creatures that are trying to snatch a baby. In a departure from the sexually active teens of most slasher movies, “The Hallow” plays on more grown-up fears: keeping your family safe and steering clear of a vengeful Mother Nature.
Padua is freelance writer.
Unrated. At AFI Silver. Contains gruesome violence and a baby in jeopardy. 97 minutes.