Directed by: #HarryBoast
Written by: #PhilipBoast
An ambitious but deeply flawed production—The Hollow World constantly battles against its own narrative aspirations; losing more often than it wins.
A Starling-like swarm of ever-changing lights swirl through space before arriving on Earth. Explosions erupt around the world, power outages ensue en masse and the Earth is consumed by darkness. Aboard the ISS, a hull breach forces astronaut Alexander ‘Xander’ Pine to jettison his escape pod; crash landing into the sea off the coast of Wales. At the same time, Kyla Burn wakes in a hospital bed unable to remember who she is or how she got there. Both are apparently unaware of the events which have unfolded.
The first thing you’ll notice is the characters’ responses to what is potentially the end of civilisation, are underplayed and unconvincing. Quite how this has happened isn't clear. It's not that they're poor actors; on the contrary, both Russell and Addiscott prove themselves more than capable of tackling their respective roles, and both display a real aptitude for delivering lines in a natural and genuine manner.
I think instead what may be happening is a case of the actors suffering from a weak script – which rarely seems to flow smoothly – and the odd lapse in direction. And again, director Harry Boast clearly knows his stuff, but there are moments where his direction seems to slip in quality; allowing for these often baffling and occasionally cringe-worthy moments.
The narrative suffers from a rather different problem. Writer Philip Boast is clearly a man of great intent, and his intention here is to tell a science-fiction story with some very complicated ideas. And, to his credit, the film does have some really interesting themes going on: subjects like grief, regret and second chances are explored amidst the usual zombie apocalypse stuff and the story kept me guessing right until the end. Not something I usually find with films these days.
It's a shame then that these opportunities are largely squandered by inconsistency and incoherence. Clunky editing creates a very real sense of distortion here. And small oddities like a character suddenly appearing wearing different clothes we never see them acquire; or going from seemingly knowing nothing about the zombies to behaving as though they’ve always known in the very next scene all add to the confusion. Ultimately, this leads to the finale feeling a little muddied and flat.
One thing that never falters, however, is Harry Boast's excellent cinematography. Sweeping landscapes, lingering close-ups and action shots are all handled with real finesse and do a great job of grounding us in the characters’ situation. Humour is also solid throughout, and whilst there are no laugh-out-loud moments, the sections of humour that are present are understated moments of joy.
The Hollow World is a film with some really thought-provoking ideas. Sadly, most are obfuscated by self-contradiction and narrative irregularities. However, it’s always best to attempt something ambitious and different and fall short than it is too lazily reprocess the same old thing; that’s what has happened here. In spite of its issues, there’s a lot to like in this film; I’d recommend a couple of viewings to get the most out of it.