Cornfields are scary. Judge David Johnson is not going to go into a cornfield ever again. And you can't make him.
You can't bury terror!
A town hides a vicious secret. And people die. And CGI crows eat their faces. Welcome to another day in the world of straight-to-DVD horror!
Facts of the Case
When Liz Chambers (Jaime Alexander, Rest Stop) breaks down in the middle of a small Midwest town, the last thing she expects is it's filled with religious lunatics that nail people to crosses in cornfields.
They don't actually come out and do this crazy stiff right away, of course, but when they discover that Liz's coming may have been foretold years ago by the town's crackpot preacher, the fur starts to fly and Liz finds herself alone and outnumbered as whacko yahoos with pitchforks give chase…and if she's not careful, she'll find herself on the business end of a hammer.
Hallowed Ground is a decent little action horror picture. While it doesn't do anything new or innovative with the genre, the film runs the playbook effectively enough, and aside from some real shifty CGI work, the execution is across-the-board solid.
I have a soft spot for the dark-brutal-history-of-a-weird-town plot hook in horror films, Hallowed Ground hits the ground running with its approach. Right away, director David Benullo tosses the viewer into the creepy mythology, as we see a wacko preacher condemning some poor sap, and than—BAM!—it's crucifixion time! I don't know about you, but crucifixion scenes always tend to make me uncomfortable and Benullo slathers on the awkwardness of having a grown man nailed to a cross and planted in a cornfield. Unfortunately any semblance of terror is wiped away with a cool-in-concept but laughable-in-execution sweeping shot of a series of crucified folks in a cornfield that is rendered in pathetic CGI. Taken swiftly and mercilessly out of the movie I was.
Let's set aside the crappy visual effects for now and concentrate on the film's strong points. For one, the acting is surprisingly good, headlined by Jaime Alexander, who turns in an impressive heroine performance. The girl has experience with straight-to-video horror and she brings her routine to this film with flourish. The only complaint is that the damsel in the distress/kick-ass babe has become an exceedingly tired and overly flogged concept in genre pictures and, despite Alexander nailing the template, there's nothing new here. Less an issue with Alexander and more with the writing and the overall flow of the industry I suppose. The supporting work is solid, featuring more than few faces you'll recognize, but may have to think a while before placing them ("Hey, isn't that the guy who shot down Air Force One in 24?").
Second, the story is decent. As I said, the buried town secret set-up and the religious zealotry and (somewhat convoluted) prophesying and general f—-iness of the town's population makes the plot amusing. There aren't a whole lot of mind-blowing reveals, but the true intentions of some of the characters offer a nice sense of narrative twisting and turning.
So all this is cool, but those CGI effects are really bad. They never get worse than that opening cornfield shot, but that's not saying much. You'll be treated to an apocalypse worth of crows towards the end, and they're all rendered on a computer and sure you can tell they're crows, but mainly it looks like the victims are wrestling with cut scenes from a PlayStation 2 game.
Video (1.85:1 anamorphic) and audio (5.1 Dolby Digital) are both serviceable, offering good picture quality and a sound mix that…mixes sound? Seriously, the technical treatment is quality, which is worth noting because there ain't no extras on this disc yo.
Hallowed Ground is well-acted and has some nifty plot points, but a lack of innovation and some sub-par visual effect work bring the recommendation level down a few points.
Hey, at least it's way better than Dark Harvest 2!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Genius Products
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