This year on Halloween night, horror fans filed into the Walter Reade theater at New York’s Lincoln Center for a screening of Corin Hardy’s debut film, “The Hallow.” The film screened as part of Lincoln Center’s ninth annual Scary Movies series, a five-day block of indie horror programming from all over the world. Some of the audience members came dressed in costume, including the director himself when he appeared for a Q&A after the film. Hardy took the stage dressed as Eric Draven from “The Crow” to discuss choosing practical effects over CGI, shooting on location in the frigid Irish woods and news about his upcoming reboot of the series from which his costume was based.
“The Hallow” is centered around a family who moves into a house deep in the Irish woods, dismissing their neighbors’ warnings about evil things lurking among the trees as mere superstition. However, they quickly learn that those superstitions are very real, and those evil things want them gone. Hardy told the audience that while the film made its own adaptations, the basic mythology is drawn from real life stories that many people in Ireland still very much believe. Hardy took the basic “rules” from the mythology, like their aversion to light and iron, but stylistically the creatures were his own creation.
While the film has many elements of fantasy, Hardy was careful to tell a story that feels like it takes place in our own world. “In trying to tell a fairy tale grounded in reality, it was a fine line between getting too fantastical [because] then it could become more of a children’s movie or a magical fairy movie, and I wanted to always have a sense of urgency… if it got too straight it would be hard to introduce these ideas.”
Part of that realism involved shooting on location and building as few sets as possible, a decision that led to many cold and rainy days and nights for the cast and crew. “It made it possible because everyone was trying to create something special,” Hardy said of the collective work ethic on set. “There were all manner of challenges. The weather in Ireland isn’t particularly reliable. It was horizontal rain some days.”
The most important of those fantasy elements is the creatures themselves. Hardy was inspired by “creature feature” horror films from an early age and had a strong interest in special effects, something he learned by going over back issues of Fangoria magazine. “I got obsessed with horror movies and with Fangoria… we used to spend our evenings looking at the makeup effects articles and trying to do like Stan Winston or Dick Smith or Rob Bottin style monster effects… I wanted to be a monster maker when I was a kid.”
It should come as no surprise then that the monsters in “The Hallow” were made as practically as possible, using makeup and animatronics without being afraid to supplement with CGI. “I loved special effects as a mixed set of techniques. I think it’s the mixture that creates an illusion, not just one.” The people in the suits became as important as the costumes themselves in creating the right effect; Hardy interviewed hundreds of physical performers from contortionists to dancers to rock climbers in finding people who could handle the unsettlingly inhuman movements of the creatures.
Hardy ended the Q&A by addressing rumors about the upcoming reboot of the “The Crow,” a fantasy franchise based on a comic series. The director confirmed that he is still attached to the film but mentioned Relativity’s financial situation, suggesting that the project might be stalled. He did speak to the fact that the franchise is personal to him, and this isn’t the first time he’s worn the iconic character’s makeup. “I used to dress up as ‘The Crow’ when I was 17,” he said. “I was really obsessed with that film… it’s something I’ve been passionate about for 21 years. I can’t wait to make the film.”
“The Hallow” hits VOD today, November 5.