‘The Hollow’: Film Review

The Hollow Still - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Uncork'd Entertainment

The Hollow Still - Publicity - H 2016

Counterproductively self-indulgent.

Multihyphenate Miles Doleac writes, directs and stars in his second feature alongside James Callis, Christiane Seidel and William Forsythe.

Bearing a passing resemblance to a Deep South take on Twin Peaks without the Lynchian penchant for supernatural surrealism, The Hollow sets out to reveal the menace lurking within a divided small-town community. What emerges is a rather unremarkable backwoods noir lacking the distinctive characters and stylistic flourishes that might set it apart from dozens of other crime dramas popping up on VOD genre menus.

Somewhere in rural Mississippi, sheriff’s deputy Ray Everett (Miles Doleac) sits atop a drug-fueled crime syndicate, which allows him to both supply meth to local junkies and at the same time compel their cooperation in support of his illicit operation. Sheriff McKinney (William Sadler) is unable, or unwilling, to interfere and Ray’s wife Trisha (Candice Michele Barley) remains oblivious to his drug-related activities, but not his infidelities. Almost everyone of any import at all in the town seems to be on the take, including Ray’s partner Lucas (Joseph VanZandt), a weak-willed deputy and chronic complainer. After one of his underage girlfriends turns up shot dead, along with the murdered daughter of a U.S. congressman and her boyfriend, Ray faces a lot more than indifference from his family and colleagues, who attribute the tragedy to Ray’s lax law-enforcement instincts.

The triple homicide brings the FBI down on the insular town, led by agent in charge Vaughn Killinger (James Callis) and his partner, both on duty and off, Sarah Desoto (Christiane Seidel). Without any suspects or a clear motive, the agents begin interviewing anyone with even a remote connection to the murders, including John Dawson, a “country lawyer” with a grandson who may have been dating the local murder victim. As the local cops try to cover their tracks and their associates begin turning up dead, the FBI agents, under pressure from the congressman and the U.S. Attorney General’s office, begin to suspect that Dawson may be playing a critical role in the town’s crime wave from behind the scenes.

The Hollow is a far cry from Doleac’s feature debut The Historian, a drama based in academia that benefited from his background as an authority on the history of antiquity. Although his sophomore script bears certain similarities to Classical tragedy, particularly in its emphasis on themes of hubris and redemption, such high-toned ideas are mostly subsumed in the machinations of a familiar Southern crime drama. In fact, the film’s central conflicts are almost stereotypically outlined, with the flawed locals arrayed against intrusive outsiders, and Doleac’s characters don’t display much more depth either.

Ray is an irredeemable lowlife determined to hang onto a modicum of control by manipulating or betraying practically everyone he’s connected with. Doleac doesn’t provide the character with sufficient self-awareness to recognize his shortcomings and either seek forgiveness or take decisive action. Callis’ Vaughn is a washed-up alcoholic drowning in self-pity in a performance that would be practically cringe-worthy if it weren’t so silly. Determined to stand by her man, Seidel gives Sarah a professional polish lacking in her colleagues, but she’s no match for Forsythe’s slippery gentleman gangster.

With a supporting cast of local types and authentic Mississippi locations, Doleac imbues the film with a certain world-weary charm, but stylistically it’s not much more than acceptably functional.

Distributor: Uncork’d Entertainment
Production companies: Historia Films
Cast: James Callis, Miles Doleac, Christiane Seidel, William Forsythe, William Sadler, Jeff Fahey, David Warshofsky, Joseph VanZandt, Candice Michele Barley
Director-writer: Miles Doleac
Producers: Miles Doleac, Ryan H. Jackson, Mackenzie Westmoreland
Executive producer: Lisa Bruce
Director of photography: Ben McBurnett
Production designer: Sarah Sharp
Costume designer: Halley Sharp
Editor: D.J. Sing
Music: Clifton Hyde
Casting director: Adrienne Stern

Not rated, 128 minutes