Set for its world premiere at Anderson, Indiana's Homegrown Hollywood Film Festival, Libby McDermott's Dead Woman's Hollow is a creepy, atmospheric indie horror flick that takes a relatively familiar set-up and puts its own unique twists into it.
The film centers around Jen (Melissa Heflin) and Donna (Sarah), two young women out on the Appalachian Trail as part of a college project to find peace in a bruised and battered world.
There could end up being one problem.
His name is Leroy (Boodle Montgomery).
The story of Dead Womans Hollow unfolds by following a murder investigation by Sheriff Hatsley (Charles Dawson), a crime that ends up revealing quite a few layers in the quest for truth.
What makes Dead Womans Hollow particularly effective, especially after the initially dialogue-heavy opening that sets it all up, is that writer John Taylor (Leach) and first-time director Libby McDermott have a clear vision that the truth about horror is that the scariest things are what exist within each of us. Rather than painting simple, broadly drawn caricatures of "evil," Taylor and McDermott have planted hatred smack dab within an uncomfortable normalcy that makes the hatred and evil that comes out all that more frightening.
Melissa Heflin and Sarah Snyder have a terrific chemistry and their relationship really amps up in intensity as the film's suspense amps up its volume. Both actresses project a sort of youthful normalcy about themselves that makes their situation all that more precarious, especially when the eerie Leroy enters the picture.
In portraying the fullness of Leroy, Boodle Montgomery is so effective it's difficult to believe he only has a short film to his credit before his appearance here. While it would have been simple for Montgomery to turn his performance into a one-note caricature, he avoids doing so and even as things start to turn he constantly leaves us guessing what's going to happen next.
D.P. and editor Matt Stahley does a terrific job of lensing the film with a smokey calm that draws you in so far that you can't possibly jump back out when the film's particularly suspenseful moments show up. Stahley edits the film in a patient manner, allowing facial expressions and silence to linger for maximum effect.
While Dead Womans Hollow starts off just a tad slow, Taylor's script picks up the pace quite nicely in both substance and meaning. While the film is comfortably within the horror genre, it's also the kind of film that will leave you wanting to talk about it as you head back up the aisle on your way home.
For more information on the film as it begins its festival run, visit the official Facebook page linked to in the credits. If you get a chance, be sure to head up to Anderson to catch the film at the beautiful Paramount Theatre, an older theater that is a truly beautiful place to watch a film and, in this case, a terrific opportunity to catch works by and feature Indiana's finest in the film industry.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic