By: Nicole Bird
Intrinsic horror exists on a deserted road, late a night. The slick asphalt reflecting even sparse moonlight seems to instill a sense of dread in the viewer. Anything could happen in the dark, cold night. A dense forest surrounds the isolated road. Horror abounds with every step. This suspenseful ambiance is established right away in the film Sweet Hollow.
The film opens on Emily, driving down the titular Sweet Hollow road late at night. She receives a call from her sister, who is eager for Emily to arrive at her house. Emily assures her she will be there soon, but the phone call drops – that’s totally normal for a deserted, creepy road late at night, right? 😉 (Side note: God bless horror movies and their multiple paths for imminent doom). Anyway, a startling shadow passes Emily’s car and she notices another car behind her as the driver honks his horn.
Emily pulls over and this handsome stranger, whose face always seems to be ensconced in shadow, alerts her to a loose back tire. He offers to fix it after saying he’s on his way to the same destination. Apparently, Emily’s sister has set him up to be Emily’s blind date and Emily finds the handsome stranger bemusing. He fixes her tire and she’s on her way. She drives further down Sweet Hollow road, but her tire falls off of her car. After some convincing, Emily accepts a ride to her sister’s house from the handsome stranger. Once she’s in the car, he tells her about the dark and gruesome legends of Sweet Hollow road, which Emily will soon discover are not just legends.
Sweet Hollow, written and directed by Sean Lee, establishes the mythos of this road with suspense running throughout the narrative. The darkness of the cinematography adds to the ominous, macabre tone of the narrative, effectively conveying a mood of doom. An example of the extremely well done cinematography is the perennial shadow on the Handsome Stranger’s face. Emily, the protagonist, wanders through an abyss, both literally and metaphorically, and the audience is right there with her. The film can be maddening at times, especially as a female viewer of horror. There are moments that Emily, as the Final Girl, is too naïve and too trusting, to the point where, as a woman, I was taken out of the narrative. However, the pay off of the climax is methodically set up, therefore still making for a satisfying, horror conclusion.
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