Cormac O’Meara talks to director Corin Hardy about his horror feature The Hallow, which opens in cinemas this weekend. A family move into a remote millhouse in Ireland and find themselves in a fight for survival with demonic creatures living in the woods.
Your film is very multi-layered with a mix of sub-genre tropes. One minute it’s folklore that transcends into a monster movie and then body horror. I was wondering, while you were making it, were you ever worried that you were trying to do too much?
It certainly wasn’t my intention to do too much! I wasn’t trying to cover all those sub-genres so much as keep the story evolving and keep people on their toes. When you do a movie like this, without giving too much away, when it gets to the point when the humans encounter the creatures you can’t just stop there and just have them battle it out. It would have been quite repetitive. So I wanted to take the story forward in ways that were driven by ideas in folklore and mythology and blend them into reality. That sort of dictated how the story progressed.
You are from Sussex in England yourself – what attracted you to Irish folklore?
I grew up reading fairytales and looking at picture books. When I had this idea of doing a fairytale grounded in in reality I researched folklore from all around the world to begin with. But I gravitated towards Ireland as a potent hub for mythology. Also it was close to me in the UK. I think it worked for this idea of a couple from London needing to travel somewhere in order to feel like they were foreigners to some extent, so I didn’t want to go up to Scotland or go down to Cornwall, which are the other two main areas where this type of mythology exists.
For me, there is an environmentalist subtext in the film – the fact that they are evil creatures is a kind of metaphor for nature’s revenge upon society.
I didn’t want to make a movie with a message rammed in your face, but yes that’s true. If you look right back to the origin of fairy myth it seems to come down to a race that existed in Ireland and was driven away. I like this idea that the creatures were driven into the forests and became kind of nature itself and that this is some sort of reaction to what man did. It ties in, in a contemporary way, with what we have done to our planet. What our human decisions have resulted in.
The film conveys a great sense of atmosphere captured by Martijn Van Broekhuizen’s cinematography.
He is a fantastic Dutch DoP that I’d heard great stuff about from everyone who had worked with him. I felt his Dutch movies, in particular, were very painterly and the incredible way he works with light. It was important for me to create the most beautiful atmospheric horror movie we could, so we worked closely together trying to create something fairytale-like but real, something cinematic, ultimately, that had a rich and colourful quality to it.
It was great to see practical effects being used for the creatures without an over reliance on CGI. Do you think that is becoming a problem in cinema, and not just horror and cinema as a whole.
I certainly think you can have too much CGI and you don’t feel anything necessarily. You can have incredible action sequences and incredible effects but they don’t connect to your soul because you can’t feel that they are real. I like to mix techniques. It’s not a case of everything practical. We try to do as much in camera as we could with make-up effects, animatronics, puppetry and real locations but there is a number of visual effects and CGI. I think the best way of executing this kind of illusion is to mix techniques together. It’s not a case of doing it all practically or all CGI, it’s a mixture.
Am I right in saying that originally you wanted to shoot on film but because of the budget it just wasn’t an option.
When you have a budget – and I think no matter what the budget is it’s probably never enough – you have to do the breakdowns, scheduling, timing, etc., It’s not really a case of it’s just too expensive to shoot on film. It’s more that when you look at the whole budget and you break it down into all these areas, particularly if I needed to make sure that we could pull of these effects – we had to make sure that we had enough to do the practical and visual effects. When it came down to it, I really wanted to shoot on film. I’m a massive devotee and fan of celluloid but it was a matter of you can shoot on film but then you’ll have to lose five days shooting. Well I needed those five days! You have to weigh it up.
The Hallow opens in cinemas Friday, 13th November 2015