I don’t know about you but COVID-19 has really taken all the fun out of watching horror movies about viruses. The Andromeda Strain, Outbreak, Contagion, Viral, Quarantine and the rest just don’t have the appeal they used to have now we are all starring in our very own pandemic movie day in and day out.
Perhaps one of the reasons is because 2020’s Coronavirus epidemic has made every last one of us experts in this genre considering we are now living through it. When watching any sort of infection film we suddenly start thinking “That’s not what happens”. “That’s not how people react” and “Why don’t they just defeat it with hand sanitiser?”
This was my main issue with first time feature director Francesco Giannini’s Hall which premiered at this year’s FrightFest and revolves around a fictional world where a debilitating sickness is spreading across the country and no one has the cure; sound familiar?
At several times during Hall we hear news and radio reports on the outbreak which describe that it is a flu-like virus which has killed more people than the Plague. Later we see that it quickly overtakes your body causing you to hallucinate then turn into a flesh hungry zombie and then die however no one in this film seems bothered in the slightest, they’re not even wearing masks.
In fact the dysfunctional family we follow have decided to stay the night in a hotel, a hotel that has a huge fund raising event going on at it and when they arrive they meet a heavily pregnant woman also staying the night. Now I don’t mean to be picky but unless you decided to be cryogenically frozen during the start of this year (and if you did well played!) we all now know that not only would the hotel be closed until further notice, the event would have been cancelled and all the main characters would be on lockdown unable to travel.
Obviously I am not saying that horror films need to be realistic however releasing a film about a killer virus at this point in time seems at best dumb and at worst insensitive and opens Hall up to all sorts of criticism from its audience who like me will spend the entire run time citing the massive inaccuracies in how the film is handling things.
You might think I am being unfair tearing down Hall seeing the movie was scripted a while back when Coronavirus was something only lovers of insipid Mexican beer had and you would be right if there was anything else to recommend about this movie but unfortunately there is not.
Giannini has yet to master the craft of film making or writing considering he is credited as coming up with the story and both are stale, slow and utterly unconvincing. The pacing is completely off and the random introduction of Julian Richings midway through as an insane scientist who seems to have engineered the infection to bring down America goes nowhere leaving us feeling like a whole chunk of the movie is missing.
Character wise we are supposed to identify and connect with the two mothers of the movie pregnant Naomi (Yumiko Shaku) who has fled Japan and the abusive father of her baby and Val (Carolina Bartczak) a victim of domestic violence who musters enough courage to finally leave her hateful husband when she sees her daughter is being beaten as well.
I say supposed to because we simply don’t feel anything for them as not only are they terribly written but they put themselves and their children in a massively dangerous position during a pandemic and their actions throughout the film make no sense.
In executing her escape plan from the clutches of her evil spouse Val tells her daughter to wait for her in the hotel stairwell then promptly leaves her for what seems like hours alone taking time to wander around the hall of the sick and help another person in peril rather than find her now lost and hallucinating child. Plus she doesn’t wash her hands once.
Every character in Hall acts as if nothing is going on in the outside world and their carefree oblivious attitudes to the horrendous infection, which we see in graphic detail overtake and end their lives as they die in the hall of the hotel, seems ridiculous especially when there are children involved.
Boring, bland and badly made there is very little to recommend about Hall and its ineptitude at convincingly conveying the world during a pandemic is inexcusable and I should know because, like you, I’m an expert.