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'Hollow in the Land' Film Review: Dianna Agron goes from 'Glee' to grunge, in this small-town thriller

January 26, 2018Sherry Li

Hollow in the Land is a gripping and intense mystery that follows Alison Miller, played by Dianna Agron, the guardian of her problematic younger brother, Brandon (Jared Abrahamson), a year after their father is jailed for killing a 15-year-old. But when the father of Brandon's girlfriend is murdered and Brandon disappears, Alison must race to discover the truth of what happened that night, and to find her brother before the police do.

Agron does a fantastic job as Alison, a gay, blue-collar pulp mill worker who becomes an amateur detective of sorts. Her character is grim and kind of grungy, which is a far cry from the preppy and sweet persona audiences might know her for from Glee. Agron is almost unrecognizable in the best way, completely disappearing into her character, and the movie, directed and written by Scooter Corkle, does an incredible job at developing Alison, making use of a grey and desaturated color palette to reinforce the sense of gloom and bleakness in her life.

The story itself is good, though some aspects of the plot are a little too convenient, which leaves some tension between the characters to be desired. A prime example is how the town turns their back on Alison and Brandon after what their father did, yet Alison is still more capable of getting help and answers from its citizens than the town's own trusted police force.

Abrahamson also gives a riveting performance as Brandon, and it's almost regrettable that there wasn't more of him in the film. However, with the character being largely absent from the story, even to the audience, the movie does a great job of maintaining a lingering sense of doubt about him — where he is and whether or not he is, given his record and temper, even capable of killing someone.

The mystery itself isn't overly predictable and manages to present enough roadblocks so that you're constantly left guessing. But it is still a small enough town that the list of suspects is relatively short, so that some of your theories are bound to be correct. And while the plot doesn't feel all that original — parallels between this film and Winter's Bone seem obvious — the film does a great job of fleshing our the town and letting the viewers into it from Alison's perspective.

At the same time, however, there isn't enough suspicion placed on the other characters, nor is there enough investigation into them, which could have helped make the movie's final reveal all the more satisfying. The film leaves the audience asking two questions throughout — where is Brandon and if he actually committed the murders — when it could have been asking more, and it could have also used more red herrings to help prevent the feeling that the narrative wraps up a little too quickly and conveniently.

Despite all this, Hollow in the Land is quite compelling overall and feels incredibly raw and honest in its depiction of small-town, rural life. There are quite a few plot twists, though, and, oddly enough, the result is kind of heartwarming, leaving viewers with a sentimental feeling about forgiveness and family.

Hollow in the Land releases January 26th, 2018 from Elevation Pictures and is rated 14A. Its runtime is 1 hr. 32 min.

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