There's not much more painful than watching talented actors floundering in sub-standard material, but such is the case in writer/director Craig Efros's 81-minute Hollows Grove, a indie horror flick from the far too utilized "found footage" school of filmmaking that takes a potentially promising storyline and turns it into an almost achingly predictable horror flick with a couple of genuinely freaky and frightening scenes and a handful of better than expected special effects that leave a bit of a lasting impact.
The film begins with Williamson's appearance as an FBI agent essentially introducing the "found footage" about to be seen, though Williamson does so with a sense of gravity and seriousness that the film never really lives into. Williamson, most familiar to audiences from Forrest Gump, could have done more here but needed a film that would match his performance.
From there, we're thrust into the story of a group of paranormal investigators tasked with investigating an abandoned orphanage. Harold (Matthew Carey) is a documentary filmmaker following the crew of a ghost-hunting reality show that includes his best friend Tim (Matt Doherty, Home Alone), Roger (Sunkrish Bala, Sex and Death 101), Julie (Bresha Webb), and Chad (Val Morrison). Lance Henriksen, a recent familiar face in lower-budgeted indie horror and sci-fi projects, has a fun appearance as Bill, a special effects guru whose primary job is to rig the show's cheesy scares and special effects.
You do know these shows are rigged, right?
Hollows Grove, picked up by indie distributor Vision Films for a VOD release, benefits from its shooting location, L.A.'s abandoned Linda Vista Community Hospital, a popular shooting location for indie horror filmmakers and a familiar place for those of us who regularly watch indie horror. The setting gives the film a super creepy vibe that is magnified by a story centered around children. Ultimately, we pretty much always know where the film is going once Hector (Eddie Perez), the facility's groundskeeper, initially tries to keep out the filmmaker's but eventually relents to let them shoot with a stern warning.
The chills start quickly, though they're initially not jarring for the crew that expects Bill to have set up more than a few cheesy scares for the purpose of filming. As the night goes on and the doors get locked, it becomes apparent that Bill is not behind everything that is going on.
Years earlier, the orphanage had experienced the suicides of two nurses and one particularly disturbing young child with a penchant for handy knife-work. With other deaths, of both children and staff, in its history, it becomes clear that the dark energy that is contained within its space may not be able to be controlled.
Hollows Grove never really gives us characters that we can care about, though this is certainly not always a requirement for effective indie horror. In found footage films, however, it helps because most of the time we've found the footage of personal, rather horrific experiences. If we're not actually interested in the lives of those involved, the horrors become a lot less horrific. Such is the case in Hollows Grove, a film with a decent amount of jump-scares and gore scenes but a notable absence meaning and substance.
Lance Henriksen's appearance is the inspired stroke here, an appearance so far above anything else in the film that you feel the film deflate just about as much as Tom Brady's balls when he leaves the screen. It never really recovers, though the film definitely picks up steam in its waning moments and closing scenes to leave a solid, jarring impact as the closing credits roll.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic