October 3, 2014
Mykelti Williamson as F.B.I. Agent Jones
Lance Henriksen as Bill
Matthew Carey as Harold
Matt Doherty as Tim Royce
Harold is filming a documentary about the four people involved in the production of the hit TV show, S.P.I.T. – Spiritual and Paranormal Investigation Team. Despite the show’s claims, he quickly learns that all sequences of paranormal activity are staged by Bill – the special effects expert. After getting some office footage, Harold accompanies the team on their next ‘adventure’ inside the abandoned orphanage and hospital, Hollows Grove. But after some routine filming of the rooms where ghastly incidents occurred many years earlier, the team starts noticing strange things for which Bill couldn’t be responsible.
Hollows Grove is a found footage film about a reality TV film crew… Even though the concept seems a little different – mostly in a negative way – it’s more or less the same plot as others in the mode – where we see things from the prospective of a couple of freaked out cameramen.
The success or failure of any found footage films depends on a couple key factors: Good acting and good timing. The poverty of effect forces the weight of the film on the story and its characters. If the story is poorly paced and the actors handed unimpressive dialogue that they have difficulty selling, thus making their plight seem contrived and unbelievable, then the film fails to entertain. Hollows Grove is a first class example of such failure.
The film revolves around five unsympathetic participants. The two ugliest get the most camera time and the two prettiest get the least. Testorone-heavy bantering – which bores more than entertains – serves as poor camouflage for a lack of chemistry between the actors. Indeed, with the exception of the lone female, the characters are presented as silly, vulgar individuals, which audiences will want to see killed as quickly as possible so as not to continue to afflict us with their presence.
Unfortunately, their deaths are not forthcoming for some time (if at all). Instead we see them react to poorly produced scares that come too late in the film (especially considering what we have had to endure) and that rely on obviously fake (even by micro-budget standards) props that are lobbed into view from just behind the camera. At other times, lousy ghost effects are the order of the day. Even worse, much more of the paranormal activity is conveyed to us exclusively by the unconvincing reactions of the unsympathetic participants.
But even failing on the two fronts of acting and timing, filmmaker Craig Efros went above and beyond to the point where it seems like he was insisting that viewers not suspend disbelief – right from the beginning. It exists as a ‘duh’ afterthought that those who aspire to create found footage films should not employ well-known actors. But FBI Agent Jones is played by Mykelti Williamson – an actor known for his cop roles in various blockbusters, including Heat (1995). Plus casting Lance Henrikson as Bill and giving him just a couple lines and almost zero screen time was simply moronic. Horror and Sci-Fi fans will readily recognize him as the star of the 1990s apocalypse series, Millennium. Unless name actors are playing themselves, they only detract from instead of add to the ‘reality’ of the found footage. (Not that there was much left to detract from in this case.) And if name actors are included, filmmakers may as well capitalize on their appeal by giving them maximum screen time… But sadly, Efros, wasted any star-gravitas they could bring by pinning Williamson and Henrikson to bit parts.
As one can expect, with such sloppy planning and execution, audiences will also be treated to several plot holes and an ending that isn’t so much a conclusion as a sudden halt to the story.
Bottom Line: Hollows Grove is another found footage film comprised of unsympathetic characters who explore a haunted asylum/hospital type institution and encounter poorly timed and executed scares. Not worth your time.