The found footage horror genre deserves to be on life support, and movies like Hollow make you want to yank the cord out in anger.
The British import, out Feb. 19 on Blu-ray and DVD, follows four friends looking to kick back while spending time at the home of a late relative in Suffolk. What they don't expect to find is a creepy old tree and a legend about poor souls compelled to hang themselves from its gnarled limbs.
The back story comes to light as the quartet read old books lying about the property belonging to the vicar grandfather of Emma (Emily Plumtree) and talk to locals well versed in the past horrors. The hollow tree is the focal point of a legend in which people hang themselves from its branches to find absolution.
Could a similar fate await the film's stars? Well, Hollow's prologue is either a red herring or a premium spoiler alert.
The actors (Plumtree, Matt Stokoe, Jessica Ellerby, Sam Stockman) do all they can with the material, and by horror film standards they're occasionally charming. You won't be bothered spending time with them until we learn about their complicated romantic pasts. The dramatic fallout crushes their appeal without ensnaring us into the story further.
Hollow keeps the gore and goblins off screen, and while superior found footage films like The Blair Witch Project proved that can be effective, the presentation here simply isn't sufficient. Good luck finding a single scare of consequence.
Worst of all, the excuses why the foursome keep on filming grow weaker as the movie plods along, as if four bright lads couldn't spring for a torch at some point. At least one potential peeping tom portion can be explained away by a Girls Gone Wild impulse.
Besides, we never learn in found footage movies who expertly edits the content into the coherent narrative before us.
The spiritual angles brought up by the Hollow legend aren't fully realized, and while the characters can be witty we're not willing to root very hard for their survival.
Which leaves what, exactly?
Found footage horror likely isn't going away. It's ridiculously cheap to shoot, demands actors often lucky to get a gig and, when the video cam stars align, can make a killing at the box office.
Hollow simply reminds us of the folly of embracing the format without a clear plan to scare us silly.
The sole extra is a very brief segment detailing how the cast and crew eschewed cell phones to get into the spirit of the quartet's isolated plight.