Southern Horror Hallowed Be Thy Name (2020) Lacks Scares and Direction
Title: Hallowed Be Thy Name
First Wide Release: June 30, 2020 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Taylor Ri’chard
Writer: Taylor Ri’chard
Runtime: 99 Minutes
Starring: Collin Shepard, Bryen Lenis, Alissa Shaye Hale
Where to Watch: Free with a Subscription to Amazon Prime
A high school senior (Collin Shephard) is forced to move across the country while his parents finalize their divorce. As he adjusts to life with his mother and grandmother in small-town Louisiana, he makes friends with the kind and supportive Mick (Bryen Lenis) and the firecracker Skylar (Alissa Shaye Hale). One day the teens travel to a cave deep in the woods with promises of it granting wishes only to find deadly consequences for their trespassing. Hallowed Be Thy Name is the second feature film from director Taylor Ri’chard.
Hallowed Be Thy Name is a dull supernatural chiller that is mired primarily from its lack of resources and talent.
Overstretched and overstuffed, Hallowed Be Thy Name doesn’t give the viewer much to chew on during its seemingly interminable 99-minute runtime. The story is overly complicated without making sense of itself. It also sports some of the cringy and repetitive dialogue that grates really easy on the ears. I feel like Ri’chard could have dived more into the culture of the town, because it felt very Everytown to me, which didn’t feel right for its clear small, Southern town location. I know some of the film leans into it, but I feel like more effort could have been made to bring the town to life.
Even for an indie flick, the acting was pretty awful from start to finish. Lenis gives the only performance of a caliber above Z-grade schlock. The rest over-act and dilute the dialogue with unnecessary screams and groans. The characters themselves aren’t fully realized either. Hale’s Skylar makes questionable decision after decision that soon reaches beyond the realm of realism. What’s more, is none of these characters have much personality beyond the one or two descriptors. It makes for very petty drama and low entertainment for the viewer.
The film’s artistic merit goes just as far. Shots are often dark or otherwise washed out, giving it a depressing ambiance that doesn’t match the tone of the film. The shots are often bland and uninspired as well, with not much creativity used to elevate the film beyond its bare-bones roots. The set, and more importantly, the setting had potential that was simply not realized. We spend all of five minutes in a mystical cave and then spend the rest of our time shuttling from one indistinguishable house to the next? No thank you!
I hate to keep kicking a film when it’s down but it doesn’t get better. One of the most distracting parts of the movie is the uneven sound design. Actor’s voices would balloon and then wither into nothing in ways that continue to confuse me. The editing isn’t much better, which is most noticeable through abrupt scene transitions. The effects are hokey but aren’t bad compared to the more dizzying technical flaws.
Normally, I take the time to really dissect the deeper meaning behind the film or why I think it is important to current cultural events. But I just want to clear the air that I don’t want to dogpile on an indie film that clearly tried the best it could with the budget it had. When watching or even reviewing these films, I’m not looking for award-winning cinematography or mind-blowing effects. I get that isn’t always possible. I cannot forgive, however, lazy writing, bad acting, and bad editing as easily. Overall, the film feels punishing to watch, which is never a feeling that someone should experience when watching a movie.
Unfortunately, Hallowed Be Thy Name is a rather dull and plodding film that offers little excitement to viewers hoping for an unexpected indie sleeper hit of the year. There’s some talent here, it just needs to be cultivated across the board in a more meaningful way. I’m not willing to write off Ri’chard, in particular, because I think he can do better than this. Regardless, heed the warnings from the locals and avoid this film, even if it looks good in your free Amazon Prime queue.
Overall Score? 3.5/10