Hallowed Ground (2019) by Miles Doleac is a study in prejudice and representation that may be a bit heady for its own good. Frequent speeches and overcomplicated exposition stall the scares way too often and leave the viewer bored in scenes that should be very interesting. Unfortunately, they are this close but ultimately fall short of the mark.
The film tells the story of a married couple, Alice (Lindsay Anne Williams) and Vera (Sherri Eakin), who are on a dual-purpose trip to a Native American resort. There is a burial mound on the property that Vera plans to research and explore for her job, while the weekend retreat is also intended as a vacation for them to address painful issues in their strained relationship. Upon arrival, they are greeted by Nita (Mindy Van Kuren), who tells them about the resort, the mound, and how important it is to respect the property line between themselves and the neighbors.
A few minutes later they meet the groundskeeper, Sandy (Ritchie Montgomery), who promptly tells Alice and Vera that he doesn’t have a problem with their sexuality, and then reiterates the warning about the property line. Of course, the warnings are ignored, the property lines are crossed, and a short time later Alice and Vera find themselves besieged by a Klan-like dragon cult that demands human sacrifice.
So, let’s unpack this one, shall we?
There are a lot of things to enjoy about Hallowed Ground. The cinematography by Michael Williams is excellent—the colors, textures, and lighting are well-executed and really bring the story to life. The practical special effects are really good too. A closeup of a partial crucifixion is especially brutal. Overall, the acting is good with a few standouts, including Williams, Montgomery, and Scott Bolster who plays Lonny, the all-too-earnest son of evil cult leader Bill Barham (Doleac).
Perhaps the finest thing about Hallowed Ground is the haunting soundtrack and score by Clifton Hyde. The music really amps up the tension as well as evoking the spirit of old cultures and customs of the deep south that remain deeply-rooted in many places, even today.
In the end, Hallowed Ground is almost really good. Almost. And it would be if it weren’t for a few fatal flaws. The first of these is pacing. Scenes of ultimate tension are diluted with unnecessary dialogue and overwrought exposition. See, there’s a 140-year-old blood feud between the Barhams and the Native Americans who live next to them, and at every opportunity, Doleac monologues about it, doling out lore piece by piece when he should be sacrificing humans.
Another issue, which is a problem in many horror movies, is that the characters act in ways that make no sense. For example, after being told that one or more of them are to be tortured and/or killed by the weirdos next door, all of the major characters manage to lose track of their phones and allow them to be stolen by cultists. And, when given guns to protect themselves and eventually fight back, they inexplicably fire into the air or choose not to use the weapons, allowing themselves to be captured yet again.
The bad guys suffer from this same malaise, their main fault is leaving captives alone for no reason while their friends are out there somewhere trying to rescue them, and then being totally shocked when they manage to get away.
And finally, there’s a confusing sub-narrative of prejudice on the part of the villains, who mention with disdain the sinful nature of Alice and Vera’s relationship and the superiority of their own pure race. But this is a bit difficult to quantify because while it is perfectly reasonable to assume that a quasi- Ku Klux Klan cult would have a problem with our gay protagonists, that’s not how they actually behave. In fact, at one point in the film, Bill releases Alice and Vera in exchange for another character, Thatcher Vance (Jeremy Sande).
Vance is Alice’s obsessed former lover and stalker who is a true low-life, and although he does not necessarily deserve to die, Barham explains that of the three, he is the worst and is willing to let the others go free and take only him. And while Barham and his cohorts are obsessive and unhinged, the rules were clear and blatantly broken and their reaction is perfectly in line with what they said they were going to do.
So, while it seems the message of Hallowed Ground might be that it’s scary to be gay in Alabama, the true message is when you’re warned multiple times about crossing property lines that are secured with razor wire and obsessively guarded by cultists, it’s probably good to heed the warnings. That, and you should keep your phone in your pocket when there’s a bunch of murderous psychos after you.
|Runtime:||1 hr 57Mins.|