Review: HALLOWED GROUND Is An Excellent Addition To The Rural Horror Subgenre
I have an affinity for American rural horror films. Scratch that. An obsession. There’s something about films that feature the cool city slickers clashing with the rural folk that I particularly enjoy, especially in films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Hunter’s Blood, Tourist Trap, and Southern Comfort. I don’t know, I think it’s part of a greater love of horror films with subtle messages about socioeconomic class (I’m a grad student focusing on horror in my program) so I’m always dying to dissect each and every message in a horror film, purposeful or not). I’m from the very deep South, so seeing films shot close to me makes them feel more familiar too.
Apart from those in the latter half of the 20th century, though, it seems the subgenre is slowly dwindling. There have been some great films from the 2000s and 2010s, few as they may be, that I’m happy to add to my list of rural favorites. Some of these include We Are What We Are (a 2013 remake of the earlier Mexican film of the same name), Wrong Turn, and even Alexandre Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes remake from 2006. I’m so happy that I’m able to add Miles Doleac’s fourth film, Hallowed Ground, to this list. It’s a great addition to the subgenre.
The film follows Vera (Sherri Eakin) and Alice (Lindsay Anne Williams), a married couple facing some relationship problems after Alice cheated on Vera with a photographer. To repair their relationship, Vera and Alice take a trip to a secluded cabin. There property owner, Nita (Mindy van Kuren), warns them about crossing the property line, as the land is next to property belonging to the Barham clan, a backwoods family who has owned the property for generations. Nita’s Native American family and the Barhams have fought bitterly over the land before, and not trespassing on the Barham property is seemingly the only way to keep the peace. The clan and their leader Bill Barham (Miles Doleac) punish those who trespass in gruesome ways, as Vera and Alice come to realize.
I had a blast watching Hallowed Ground. It could be that I’m partial to rural horror as a whole, but I think this is an engaging film throughout the majority of its run. There are parts where I was pulled out of it a bit, but the story is still engrossing. We find the typical archetype of the backwards hick in Bill Barham; he’s cold, traditional, and he’s much more morally backwards than the film’s protagonists. However, he isn’t traditional in the religious sense, which was an interesting aspect of the character that brought another layer to the conflict between Vera and Alice as well as Nita’s family.
Another thing that made this movie great was the LGBT representation. Alice and Vera argue over Alice’s sexuality at the beginning of the film and Alice vehemently argues that she’s always been and always will be bisexual regardless of who she’s in a relationship with, and I don’t think I’ve seen a horror film before that goes that in depth and is that positive toward bisexual people, particularly women. It was refreshing to see in a genre where a commonly argued point is the treatment of women, both positive and negative. Seeing two characters that are LGBT women with well-developed personalities is a win for me (I should mention, for those curious, this film does absolutely pass the Bechdel Test!).
Another thing that really did it for me was the soundtrack. Soundtracks can make or break a film for me, but this one really made it. It’s atmospheric, moody, and really sets the stage for the events that unfold throughout the film. Director, writer, and actor Miles Doleac composed them with the help of composer Clifton Hyde.
Overall, I really fell in love with this movie. It’s obvious there was a lot of care put into this film. On top of this being a subgenre I really love, I had an awesome time watching it. If this is any indication of director Miles Doleac’s future work, I can’t wait to see what he’ll do next.
Hallowed Ground will hit select theaters June 7, and be available on VOD June 11.