Hallowed Ground, 2019.
Directed by Miles Doleac.
Starring Ritchie Montgomery, Lindsay Anne Williams, Sherri Eakin, Miles Doleac, Jeremy Sande, and Cotton Yancey.
A married couple travels to a secluded cabin, hoping to rebuild their relationship. They stumble into a blood feud between the Native American owners of the property and the neighboring clan.
It is always saddening to see a film using the tired, cliched trope of spooky Native Americans and “Sacred Indian Burial Grounds” in 2019. The new movie Hallowed Ground is so entrenched in this whole gimmick that it weighs down the entire viewing experience. Why is it such a crutch for writers when they don’t know how to make something scary? Instead of attempting to build new horror mythos and create original ideas for a haunting, you go for a tired and loosely established scare for cheap effect. Sadly, this is the only the first of many missteps when it comes to Hallowed Ground.
Let’s start at the beginning, though. Hallowed Ground begins with a cold open featuring a Native American man throwing a skinned face at the feet of a family who promises to get revenge on the man. Real subtle start to this piece.
We then presumably jump forward to modern day where we meet our leads. Vera and Alice, a couple with a rocky marriage filled with mistrust, venture to a cabin in the woods in hopes to rekindle their spark. They quickly met by the mysterious owner of the cabin, the creepy groundskeeper, and the eerie atmosphere. Again, all of this is handled with the subtlety of a sledgehammer.
The premise is simple enough, and there’s a moment or two where the creep factor is present. Director Miles Doleac understands the atmosphere needed for a film like this; you are quickly introduced to a situation and just as quickly want to leave that situation. That’s the exact type of “get me out of here” feeling you want for horror, and that’s admittedly apparent throughout. Couple that with some pretty gross gore moments, and the elements that make this genre entertaining are there. Sadly, you are thrust right back into some cliched tropes or dialogue and get reminded of the film’s limited range.
The couple featured at the center of our story are two women. While that’s a reasonably progressive inclusion on the surface, it’s painfully apparent this film uses it as another gimmick. Their dialogue and interactions always feel like the first few minutes of chemistry in an adult film, so cheesy and shot with the male gaze. Rarely, if ever, do the characters of Vera and Alice have a real moment that doesn’t feel forced or just there for the sake of plot progression. Maybe asking for a little human emotion in an independent slasher movie is a bit much, but even The Human Centipede made me feel for its characters more.
Hallowed Ground feels like it comes from an era of horror that’s seemingly out the door. During the ’70s and even the mid-’00s, a film like this would’ve found an audience. Torture-filled brutal movies with a focus on female violence were all the rage and did have a place in the genre’s history, but even the best of those films handle their subject matter with care. Filmmakers need to earn your trust when it comes to touchy subject matters, and that doesn’t happen here. So by the time the film gets to things like human sacrifices or sexual violence towards women, you can’t connect yourself in what’s happening on screen.
Take 2017 French film Revenge, for example. There are brutal scenes of graphic violence and rape, but it’s part of the story’s core. Even with all the sick things happening on the screen, you know the film isn’t using this merely to shock you. Every time something extreme happens like in Hallowed Ground though, it feels unneeded and ultimately hinders the final product. Take away the extreme elements and focus a bit more on the strange cult-like story, and this could’ve easily been something fresh.
Films like Hallowed Ground are a dime a dozen. You can go onto any streaming platform and find countless movies like this. Like something leftover from the VHS or torture porn era, this is a cheap horror film with little or no impact on the genre. In a time of such high-quality horror entertainment, this won’t regress anything but will serve as a reminder of how far we’ve come.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★