The Hallow (2015) & Irish Changelings

Heed the Warnings

“Hallow be their name, And blessed be their claim. If you who trespass put down roots, Then Hallow be your name”. I feel it’s a really common story: foreigners coming in, ignoring warnings, fucking around and finding out that with the local lore, nobody was joking. A man moves in with his young family (wife and brand-new baby boy) to the edge of a forest. Everyone tells him to stay out of the forest or at least keep the iron bars on the windows; he does neither. “If you trespass upon them, they’ll trespass upon you”; ; Colm leaves the fairy tale book; this is a culture shock/dismissal of cultural beliefs as fantasy. I suggest you know what you’re dealing with and pay heed if in an unfamiliar place. Our world is a strange place.

What ensues are kidnapping attempts; rooms being messed up, paranormal activity (slamming doors). Even the cop who investigates it tells the story of the sidhe; a “conquered people driven from their sacred lands with iron and fire” though he says he doesn’t believe. Iron is known to repel fairies, who aren’t the cute little Victorian figures everyone seems to think they are. That image came from a romanticization of what fairies are.

Other phenomena:

-took a picture of a creature near the woods; at least the flash illuminated it

-dog acting strangely, sensing something else with them

-inside the baby’s sheets, they find this blackened/twisted mass of growth; almost looks cancerous

-the forest messes up their frequencies in the car radio, breaks it down as a trap, scratches in the car; camera flash as modern fire? Too much light nevertheless.

Modern Man’s Nightmare/Folklore

I also see this as a modern man’s nightmare; unable to understand, to protect one’s family against the things that go bump in the night. Unable to stop them from taking his son. Also body horror with the man’s transformation into that of the Hallow from eye poisoning. Also that poor puppy; I hate the trope of using the death of an animal to show the ruthlessness of someone/something; in this case, it is something unlike us that claims people as its own. I listen to folklore about an area when I am told it; it tells us about what people fear, what possible exists there, and how these people relate to each other (as a folklorist, I know stories tell us so much more about people than is understood. Even if I didn’t believe, they clearly do for a reason. Something is happening, we just don’t know what.)

Complete Dismissal of Women’s Fears

We also the complete dismissal of the woman’s fears, which irks me; like, she was right about needing to leave. She felt uneasy about all of it. If my husband dismissed me, I’d be packing my bags (granted, I have psychic abilities and have had terrifying experiences with dark places). We also see this mistrust between man and wife about the identity of Finn; she hides from him believing he is ill (which it’s clear from his appearance he is). Her mother instinct to protect her child is overriding her trust in her husband. This movie feels like a cis-gender man’s fever dream. Powerless. But at the end, we see Adam using his new abilities as one of the Hallow to find the child/return him to his mother and he has his dog. The trust is reestablished at the end when Claire takes the Finn Adam is holding instead of the one she is, seeing the logic in what she told him before: “Why would they just give him back to us?” Adam’s final acts are that of a protective father made Hallow while Claire escapes into the sun. The fake Finn dies by the morning light.

Reclamation

I love this idea of reclamation, of the forest very literally triumphing over the creations of man-the way it takes back the car and essentially possesses people is novel. ‘We’ll take you and make you part of us’, essentially. The black ‘blood’ of the forest also denotes evil; fairies are thought to be pretty but investigations in such areas yield that fairies are probably squat, troll-like beings or even jinn-like, wrong in their shape to the human eye. So in this way, they are unfriendly to humans because of their blood being able to change human cellular structure/possessing/make you become us thing. We’ve got some similarities to the demonic, which is a human’s worst nightmare if you think about it: bigger, stronger, more intelligent, able to possess and break down the body. Adam’s transformation is some excellent body horror; he has branches coming out of his skin, which is a practical effect mixed with CGI (for movement to watch it grow out of him) and branches coming out of his face wounds. His eye is weirding me out too, the way it has “healed”. Cora is way creepy too, like a Silent Hill reconstruction of a little girl with glowy eyes. It’s almost sad the way these creatures covet the light in their darkness. Enjoying the creature design for the rest of the Hallow and pretty close to how I imagine fairies; gnarled, probably ugly, forced underground.

Fear of the Changeling

We also have this fear that your child isn’t actually your child; it was believed changelings are actually an enchanted piece of wood to look like your child or a disguised dying fairy. This probably had more to do with explaining disability/deformity in children to avoid guilt/punishment for destroying them. “Well, it’s not my child!” We see this same thing in Crimes of the Future (2022) when a mother kills her son because he eats/digests plastic, but her justification is that he isn’t her son, that he isn’t human and therefore, had to die. There are also many stories of people disappearing because they were kidnapped by fairies and either enslaved there or marrying one, but it’s never a good or beautiful thing. Being taken to the fairy realm is a very bad thing, which is why so many ways of avoiding it and not pissing off “the good people” were invented. People wanted to believe (and some still do) that we have power over the unknown element in such creatures.

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