‘Hollows Grove’ DVD Review
I’m going to kick this review off with a little personal story.
A year or so ago, I was at a stoplight near the historic Union Station in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri when none other than Zak Bagans strutted through the crosswalk directly in front of my wife’s car.
If you aren’t aware, Bagans hosts the unintentional comedy show Ghost Adventures. You know, that show on the Travel Channel where a frat guy yells belligerently at pretend ghosts? (“Come at me, Beelzebub!”)
I knew it was Bagans not just from his cocky walk, spiky hair and trademark pseudo-rocker attire but also from the film crew hanging a few blocks back getting b-roll of him. Ghost Adventures was covering the “Kansas City Massacre” that occurred at Union Station back in 1933. At least, I assume. I never bothered to follow up.
Long and short of it is, for a fleeting moment, both my wife and I contemplated vehicular homicide.
…I’m soo just joking. We would never do that to such a dependable and fuel-efficient car as the 2007 Honda Fit. Had we been in my old 1995 Oldsmobile Eighty Eight… best not to think about it.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is my elaborate and whimsical way of saying I have no love for ghost hunter “reality” shows, so anytime someone satirizes the genre it gives me many giggles. If Craig Efros’ Hollows Grove is any indication, I’m not alone either. The first half of this by the numbers found-footage horror movie is oddly comforting in that regard.
We open on a slightly snicker-inducing introduction from an FBI agent presenting footage from “the incident” in an office almost unbefitting of a used car salesman. From there, we launch into an amateurish television intro for S.P.I.T. (Spirit and Paranormal Investigation Team) that’s more like something you’d roll your eyes at on YouTube. Considering the rest of the movie has considerably more polish, I think the intro is supposed to be rather bush-league. If not, I still award serious points for skewering Zak Bagans’ hilariously fake “Dude, something is scratching me!” routine (See Ghost Adventures Season 1, Episode 1).
From there, things get much better as we’re introduced to the S.P.I.T. team via some honestly fun conversation and decently acted character moments. The misogynistic guy succeeds in making you detest him, the head producer and star of the fictional show succeeds in coming across as cynical and ratings-driven and the protagonist cameraman connects with the audience through a nicely played breakup subplot that scores some sympathy.
Adding oodles of credibility to everything is Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Terminator… as if you didn’t know). He, being a 3 time Golden Glober, is of course very sparse in the film. I get the feeling they had him for about a day. Nonetheless, quite the coup scoring a veteran like Henriksen. His character, sporadic as he is, warrants mentioning, as he’s the “gag guy” who sets up all the bogus spooks for the sham ghost show. I fully believe there are people in the world who have this profession now.
The film is extremely competent in creating a believable atmosphere behind a phony baloney ghost hunter show. Mighty Ducks alumni Matt Doherty’s insincere on-camera empathy for tortured sprits particularly tickled me. Unfortunately, once it shifts gears into a straight horror movie, it lost some entertainment value for me. Don’t get me wrong; it does continue to operate efficiently for what it is but it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and relies heavily on jump scares.
Now, let me say that not every single movie in existence needs to hit you with unforeseeable twists and deliver a wholly unique experience. It’s hardly even possible when you consider the law of averages. Obviously, this would be a more favorable review had this outing been less restricted within the confines of its own genre but you really can’t fault a cheetah for eating a gazelle. There are far worse found-footage movies out there. The final seconds of the film do raise some interesting questions, too.
At its best, Hollows Grove is an entertaining indictment of the cynical behind the scenes douche-baggery and dishonest trickery that can exist behind a ghost hunter show (or any reality show, really). At its worst, it’s an altogether formulaic found footage flick that might elicit some tension and scares in those who don’t typically dip their toes into the chilly waters of spooky movies. Horror or found footage aficionados are likely to yawn once they’re past the set up and the film devolves into the typical scare tactics.
Despite the generic throes of the movie’s second half, if the cast & crew of Hollows Grove strolled through a crosswalk in front of me, I’d commend them for amusingly skewering a pretty contemptible genre that itself haunts our airwaves. I would definitely not contemplate running them down in the street. Kudos guys. You clearly didn’t have much money but grabbed a great actor and managed to moderately entertain this seen-it-all.
(No reality show hosts were harmed in the writing of this review.)