New Horror Releases: Hallowed Ground (2019) - Reviewed

In the words of writer/ director Miles Doleac, Hallowed Ground is about a married couple trying to rebuild their relationship after an affair. They travel to a secluded cabin and stumbles into a blood feud between the Native American owners of the property and the neighboring clan, who obsessively guard their land and punish those who trespass on it in terrifying ways.

I struggle to see this film as a horror, although it has slasher elements here and there, without getting graphic. Hallowed Ground is more of a suspense thriller with occasional supernatural features, but before you think this is a ghost story, let us assure you that it is far more than it appears to be when you first start venturing into the world of Vera, Alice and their new acquaintances.

This film holds a lot of surprises, one of which is a decent plot. Do not be fooled by the slow progression that helps us meet the characters and the overly dramatic force-feeding of political correctness – this film has substance and style. What makes the first part tedious is the hammering on same-sex relationships and the judgement they face as some sort of social commentary. Stereotypes – lesbians and hillbillies (not together, sorry!) are prevalent in the first bit and the film feels awkward. However, once the villain – expertly portrayed by Mr Doleac himself – is introduced, the film starts salivating before the bite.

Sherri Eaken, previously seen in NCIS: New Orleans (2014) and Queen Sugar (2016), teams up with Doleac’s real-life spouse, Lindsay Anne Williams, as her wife. The couple head out for a weekend away to rekindle their relationship at a woodland cabin owned by a Native American woman, played by Mindy van Kuren (Ridge Runners, 2018, among many short film credits).

Little do they know that they strolled into and trespassed on the wrong side of sane when they accidentally breach the fence of Bill Barham, the local psycho, bully and sheriff. At first, it seems like just another wrong turn scenario for the couple, with the stereotypical heavy Southern accents and dead animals thrown into the harbinger warning, but that is where Hallowed Ground baits and switches.

Among a mix of Indian lore (the imagery of the spirit Injun is awesome), Southern history drenched in bloody violence and a clan of mighty white Christians with a proclivity for rather pagan-looking rituals, there is the backstory. This gives the film a very welcome, very rare attribute: a good story. According to the story, the pact between the neighbors are forged in an old feud, but this paradox is what makes things interesting with the outsiders involved.

The film hits on several moral factors and it addresses the genuine ignorance of hateful indoctrination and whether hate can be altered with tolerance and familiarity. Along with making you choose your side, Hallowed Ground keeps you shouting at the participants, which proves that the film hits a nerve, even very gently.

Miles Doleac, writer and director aside, is superb as the baleful enforcer of twisted tradition reminiscent of a biblical misogynist. He successfully provokes your urge to shoot him in the face, which, in my opinion, makes for a solid heel actor. He is also responsible for other gems such as The Hollow (2016) and The Historian (2014), again featuring Lindsay Anne Williams.

Hallowed Ground sports proper acting and the actors effectively sell their characters, especially Ritchie Montgomery, who plays Sandy, the groundsman. The viewer is drawn in to the moral battle between the two neighboring groups and genuinely feel for the characters. If this is a horror, it is victorious in managing to tell a story without unwarranted blood spatter or whoo-girl titties.

Technically sound and set in the beautiful landscape of Hattiesburg, Mississipi, Hallowed Ground is a great watch that will have you wondering, resenting and cheering while the blood flows and the women scream. It is a beautiful parcel of thrills – Southern style.

-Tasha Danzig