“Hall” is a chilling and timely film that is a bit perplexing at times, but the atmosphere and tension kept me hanging on until the end.
Set almost completely in a hotel hallway, thus the name, this slow-burn thriller about a devastating virus will be divisive for horror fans who may or may not be tired of hearing about a virus that kills people.
Without giving too much away, It is important to mention that Hall is not just a killer virus film. Intertwined with the horrors in the hallway we are introduced to two women with a similar problem — an abusive husband.
Val (Carolina Bartczak) is on vacation with hubby Braden (Mark Gibson) and their daughter Kelly. (Baily Thain) The family crosses paths with Naomi (Yumiko Shaku), a very pregnant woman on the run from her own dangerous husband who is back in Japan. Neither woman knows how much they have in common, but the fear and trauma are in both of their eyes.
I admit I was very confused for much of the film, despite making the obvious connection between the abusive husbands and the virus. Both will isolate, destroy and take everything away from you. There are mentions on the TV news in the hotel rooms about what is speculated since this virus is apparently not just in this hotel.
More than telling us what exactly is going on, director and writer Francesco Giannini gives us different choices.
Is it a virus, a poison, or some weird mutation?
And of course, I kept wondering will there be zombies because it all seemed very apocalyptic. Whatever it is, it works very fast, and the wonderfully done practical effects show that in spades.
The highlight for me was Julian Richings, who you may remember from Supernatural, The Witch, or more recently, the fantastic Anything for Jackson.
Julian comes in about halfway through as a mysterious man, who is the apparent keeper of several vials of liquid that glow an ominous green. Is this the virus? We are led to think he is the mastermind, as he walks through the carnage with no apparent worry about his own safety. But I feel he is just a small piece of the puzzle.
We never know for sure who he is, but I heard a rumor from Julian Richings himself, when I had the honor of interviewing him, that this may be meant as only part of the story and a sequel is planned. In the subsequent film, we would hopefully get more information into the mystery man and why this is all happening.
In the meantime, watching the virus take hold, we alternate back and forth to see the lives of our two wives as they fall apart.
There is an obvious metaphorical parallel between the man-made virus and the abused and trapped women. The pandemic versus the patriarchy. The comparison could have been explored more. I would like to have seen more of the other hallway victims’ stories too.
My only big problem with Hall is when Val’s daughter is in the hallway waiting for her mother. Val seems to forget for most of the film that she is gone. I caught myself talking to the screen and trying to remind her she needed to go find her daughter, now!
Despite a few weaknesses and a storyline that moves at the same speed as the victims in the hallway, I liked Hall.
The acting was very low-key yet really intense. The suspense kept me hooked and my stomach was in knots the whole time.
It is a slow burn, and slow-moving film, literally.
Watching someone crawl down a hallway, sick and trying to escape, was nerve-wracking. But I am afraid it may be too repetitive and subtle for most people.
The acting by all was top-notch, and I really felt sorry for one of our heroines as she drags herself slowly along the hallway in a desperate attempt to get away. All the people lying on the floor did great, even if they had no lines. There was a lot of dedication to making it feel genuine and not be campy.
The amount of dread Francesco Giannini builds in such a small claustrophobic space was incredible, but it had no place to go.
Ultimately, I was left wanting more from Hall.
I wanted to know why this was happening, who caused it and when will it stop? I’m not sure they will get a chance to, but I hope if they make a sequel that they answer all those questions satisfactorily. If not, well it is still an interesting character study, with some great acting and cinematography that unfortunately doesn’t quite hit the mark.