Hollow Creek (2016)

vt Haunting in Hollow Creek
US / 116 minutes / color / Newfoundland, First Edge, FilmRise, Cinematic Dir & Pr: Guisela Moro Scr: Guisela Moro, Steve Daron Cine: Jon Schellenger Cast: Steve Daron, Guisela Moro, Dave Ausem, Tony Reichert, Alyn Darnay, Earleen Carey, Steve Alberts, Michael Varde, Anthony Boggs, Burt Reynolds, Rick Gennaro, Ty Eller, Riley Darwin Whelan, Alan Myles Heyman, Steven Mairano, Tina Pfeiffer, Jeffrey Growe, J. Kelly Dennehy, Connor Schellenger, Brandy.

An intriguing piece of rural noir with just a soupçon of the supernatural to add flavor to the mix, this was among the last movies to feature Burt Reynolds (albeit in not much more than a bit part).

Horror novelist Blake Blackman (Daron) is behind with his latest novel, so accepts the offer of his editor, Sherman Rogers (Gennaro), to lend him the latter’s shack near the small town of Castle Rock, Wyoming County, West Virginia, until he gets the book done. Unknown to Sherman, Blake takes along his mistress, book illustrator Angelica “Angie” Santoro (Moro).

Steve Daron as Blake.

Guisela Moro as Angie.

Several kids have gone missing in the area. After a few creepy experiences at the house, Angie, stopping at a gas station one day, believes she sees one of the missing boys in the back of a battered old white Chevy. She follows the car to a remote farmstead where dwell Leonard (Darnay) and Margaret Cunnings (Carey), a pair of daft coots who’ve been “collecting” boys to replace the two children of their own whom they lost in a dreadful accident thirty years ago.

Alyn Darnay as Leonard Cunnings.

Earleen Carey as Margaret Cunnings.

The Cunningses capture Angie. On learning she’s three months’ pregnant, they decide to keep her in the basement, along with two caged boys, so they can take her child when it’s born. Meanwhile the local cops—notably Officer Steve Thompson (Ausem), a sort of walking definition of the Dunning–Kruger Syndrome—decide Blake is the obvious suspect in Angie’s disappearance . . .

Dave Ausem as Officer Steve Thompson (left) and Michael Varde as Officer Travis.

Tony Reichert plays Mark Melbourne, an ageing ex-cop whom Blake’s publisher hires to help Blake search for the missing woman. Burt Reynolds plays mining magnate Seagrass Lambert, whose grandson Jimmy (Whelan) was abducted a while back. Anthony Boggs plays the most recently abducted boy, eight-year-old Tobias Barrett (surname variously given as Barrette), except in a brief opening sequence, where Tobias is played by Connor Schellenger.

Tony Reichert as Melbourne.

There’s quite a lot to like in Hollow Creek. The supernatural touches are kept fairly low-key and infrequent, so that when they do appear it’s a startlement, just as might be the case if they happened in real life. Daron and Moro give splendid service as the two leads, as do Reichert in the role of the wise old sleuth—he’d make a great Jesse Stone—and Michael Varde as Officer Travis, done very much in the Michael J. Fox mold.

But there are downsides, too.

Burt Reynolds as Lambert.

Some of the plot elements don’t really make sense, such as the cops arresting Blake on the grounds of zero evidence; even after they realize the connection between Angie’s disappearance and the missing boys, a series of crimes that began long before Blake came to the area, they decline for months to investigate any leads they’re handed. A gas station employee, Tommy (Growe), has an unusually specific memory when it comes to recalling a couple of passing customers weeks if not months ago. I could go on—don’t even get me started on the brief scene in the afterlife.

Rick Gennaro as Sherman.

Then there’s the matter of the Cunningses. Yes, these are supposed to be rural nutjobs in the Deliverance style, but Darnay and Carey ham up their roles unforgivably. As Leonard, late in the movie, advances on Angie, ax in hand, cackling maniacally, it’s hard to resist the impulse to start cackling along with him—but derisively. It really doesn’t do much for the impact of your thriller movie when the two lead villains are as likely to inspire a fit of the giggles as a rush of adrenalin.

Jon Schellenger’s cinematography is not infrequently lovely, but he’s far too fond of the blue filter—of filters in general, in fact. Time and time again I felt the irrational urge to wipe the intruding blue coating from my screen so I could see what was actually going on.

Anthony Boggs as Tobias.

Hollow Creek was Guisela Moro’s directorial debut; she also wrote and starred. Apparently she had studied under Burt Reynolds and so, when she took the plunge into directing in hopes of spurring her nascent movie career, she was able to persuade him to take on this small role. To his credit, he obviously took the assignment seriously; it may be a minor performance, but it’s not phoned in.

As is always the way, I’ve spent more time on the movie’s demerits than on its merits, which is hardly fair to it. Suffice it to say that I was never bored by Hollow Creek, and it didn’t feel to me like a long film despite its healthy running time. I hope we’ll see further work from Moro.

One conundrum. Unless I missed it, there’s no mention in the movie of anywhere called Hollow Creek. Where did the title come from?

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