Taylor Ri'chard comes barreling out with a love letter to horror fans, Hallowed Be Thy Name a creepy crawl of a story that leads you toward something bigger and badder than ever before. Before we get started, you can check out HorrOrigins interview with Taylor Ri'chard here.
Collin Shepard stars as Devin, a 17-year-old boy who's dragged to his mother's hometown after an ugly divorce. After arriving at his grandmother's home, he prepares to settle down in his new unwanted lifestyle. Devin's mother, Skylar is played by Alissa Hale, managing the chaos in her life and trying to set up the best path for her family.
The acting throughout the film was surprisingly consistent, but lacking in any genuine reactions. You could easily tell they were putting on a front. They were "acting" rather than becoming these characters. Particularly noticeable with the film's lead Collin Shepard, I did not feel he was really there in each moment. It felt like he was on the verge of falling asleep. The key star that stood out and was consistently on top was Bryen Lenis who played Mick. Every scene he was in was authentic and engaging, and anytime that the film lost me, Bryen pulled me back in. I'm extremely excited to see what else he manages to star in. He has some true talent, and as he continues to refine his craft, I can see him becoming a lead actor in some bigger productions.
The film pushes you into the darker corners of your personal fears, challenging the audience with thought-provoking concepts along the way. Devin is shortly introduced to two locals who take him out of his comfort zone as he rejects the new world around him. With folklore revolving around the forsaken cave that is considered to be haunted by local townspeople, the group decides there's something more going on than anyone is willing to admit. They ignore the warning signs and decide to find answers.
With the film juggling five characters and multiple storylines, I found that they didn't exactly intertwine but rather built up the characters individually. This left me wanting more regarding the story. I was hoping to see every small detail suddenly become valuable or rewarding if you picked up on it. The driving force of the story comes from the three teens, who try to uncover the mystery. I found that the initial big questions were compelling enough for me to buckle in and await what's next. But as the film progressed, I felt it was slowly falling behind on its own narrative. I felt that most of their decisions to find answers would be a true challenge, but we were finding answers far too late into the story. This film could have benefited from a re-edit to speed things up as the flow of the story is overloaded on the first two acts. It took a lot longer to uncover, as if they were constantly setting up the next act rather than letting scenes breathe. By the mid-point of the film, I felt like I was already finding my answers, but by the end, I already knew what was coming.
The film juggles topics such as family grief, personal turmoil, and demonic presences that haunt their town. This setup feels closely related to becoming a metaphor for what Devin is really experiencing, a true nightmare. With rumors of a demon lurking around the forsaken cave, they discover that it's name is "CAUCHEMAR," a legendary demon that wreaks havoc on all those it encounters. Alone they are nothing, but Devin has his new friends to help him confront this darker force.
The cinematography was intriguing, often utilizing tracking shots or unique framing. I felt that it was often uninspired, as the shots themselves were interesting but lacked real depth and fine detail. It did not feel like the cinematography was there to serve the story or use metaphors to reflect characters' thoughts. The lighting was fairly dark during the late night scenes, and this is a struggle every filmmaker faces and the real test is with framing and lighting. I could see what was in front of me, but I was either squinting or confused as to what the focus of attention was. Overall, the cinematography could've been so much more and left me unsatisfied.
The sound design and score was fairly good, consistent, and atmospheric. The synth wave soundtrack brought me back to the 80's and felt like a thrill ride. However, it lacked some dynamic range with the emotional queues, and the score felt more like background music rather than uplifting each scene and pushing further emotionally. I appreciate the effort to have a throwback to the iconic filmmakers of the past, especially in the horror genre, but I think they missed the purpose of music's true intentions.
Magic, bad decisions, and a desire to find the truth drive us down a road to save the town. The film finds inspiration from iconic John Carpenter films such as Halloween, but it leans away from the campy, indie look and feel, while retaining the horror and mystery behind the murderer.
If you're feeling up for a mystery horror that's a love letter to horror fans and 80's renditions, be sure to check out Hallowed Be Thy Name. For me, it's a 6/10!
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