Review: The Hollow Child (2017)


The Hollow Child (2017)

Directed by: Jeremy Lutter | 92 minutes | drama, horror | Actors: Jessica McLeod, Hannah Cheramy, John Emmet Tracy, Jana Mitsoula, Genevieve Buechner, Connor Stanhope, Johannah Newmarch, Craig March, Mamie Laverock, Laiken Laverock, Camille Atebe, Yvette Dudley-Neuman, Trevor Lerner

‘The Hollow Child’ is a story about a supernatural being who has replaced a family member after a brief disappearance. The screenwriter, Ben Rollo, was inspired to write this story after reading a newspaper report about an Irish family convicted of torturing and murdering a relative they thought was not the person they should be. Jeremy Lutter, the director and close friend of Ben Rollo, found it interesting to explore the theme of a family member who, after a disappearance, returns but is no longer the same person. Coupled with Canada’s wooded west coast, where the screenwriter grew up, ‘The Hollow Child’ is a tale of dark forests, singing creatures and an adopted child trying to save herself from disappointment.

Samantha (Jessica McLeod) is a teenager, skater and adopted child trying to find her place in a new family. However, she doesn’t have too much hope for this. Although her adoptive mother, Liz (Jana Mitsoula) does everything she can to bring her into the family, she encounters much resistance from her adoptive father Garrett (John Emmet Tracy). Her adoptive sister, Olivia (Hannah Cheramy), does treat her like a real sister and therefore always runs after her, sometimes to the great irritation of Samantha. When Liz tells Samantha she loves her and wants the best for her, it dawns on Samantha that she has a chance to live a full life in this family. However, her hopes are dashed when Olivia disappears.

Samantha and her skater friend Emily (Genevieve Buechner), do what all teenage girls do in boring villages: smoke and drink pot in dilapidated wooden houses. Samantha, who has the responsibility of escorting Olivia home after school, sends Olivia home alone one day so she can plan with Emily. However, the way home is through a large and dark forest where, thirty years ago, a girl has disappeared. When Samantha comes home later, Olivia is missing and this marks the beginning of the nightmare the family and Samantha are plunged into.

Samantha is of course blamed. When, after an extensive but futile search, Olivia walks out of the forest after a few days, everyone is happy and relieved. However, Olivia, once a sweet and gentle girl with cute pigtails, now tortures dogs and enjoys gory movies. Samantha is the only person who realizes that there is something fundamentally wrong with Olivia and she sets out to investigate. She comes across a drama that took place in the forest thirty years ago and is directly related to the changes she sees in Olivia.

‘The Hollow Child’ unfortunately falls into clichés that we now only encounter in cheap horror flicks. A good example is the large amounts of fog in the woods, around the house and sometimes in the bedroom. Add cawing crows, howling wolves, waving curtains and a crazy woman and you have a painfully standard model without an ounce of surprise and wonder. Also, some scenes are sloppy, which forces the story. It is also not always clear why people behave in certain ways, for example Samantha mutilating herself with scissors in her arm without it becoming clear what, in the past, has prompted her to do so.

Of all the actors, Jessica McLeod is the most convincing in her role of adoptive child. This is therefore the strongest aspect of this story: how adopted children deal with the insecurities of adoptive families and how rejection hangs over their heads like the sword of Damocles. Although the spectrum of emotions shown is quite narrow, we feel the loss and disappointment when Garrett tells her that the adoption was a big mistake. The acting of the other actors, on the other hand, is too directed and wooden.

‘The Hollow Child’ is a missed opportunity to delve into the psychology of how a family interacts with a child who is no longer that child. It would have been interesting to explore this group dynamic further and combine it with the already strong presence of Samantha as an adoptive child who must do everything in her power to regain the grace of her adoptive parents. Instead, ‘The Hollow Child’ falls into horror clichés that no one wants and doesn’t help the story.

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