The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow is a film that plays fast and loose with the laws of optics, but nonetheless uses impeccable design, music and pacing to build a uniquely suspensful cinematic experience. The opening shots show newspaper clippings. An unseen investigator in the 1930’s is researching a dangerous cult which he suspects to be responsible for the kidnapping of dozens of children. A wandering eye hones in on a photograph sent to our investigator from a “Johnny Hollow”—in it Hollow promises that the photo would shine a light on the mystery. The rest of the story is about finding out what he means by that.
Virtual camera moves mimic the act of inspecting the photo and comprise the action of the film. Similar in theory to the classic Antonioni film Blow Up, details emerge from the examination, as a backstory and sinister context are teased out of the otherwise innocuous photo. Is this evidence of the cult in action?
Without dialogue, without even cuts or motion per se, the supporting elements of the film take on an exaggerated role. The photo itself is very well composed, and the sepia tones of it and the clippings clearly evoke the era. The music composed by Johnny Hollow is likewise stellar, a perfect match for the pacing of the film itself. Breathy, ethereal voices dominate the opening until the main piano themes kicks in with the photograph about a 1min20 in. Discordant strings create an unnerving bridge halfway through and when the piano theme comes back it is pounding, along with the suspense. Atmosphere is perhaps the most important element of horror, and this film delivers that.
We shouldn’t be surprised that co-director and writer Rodrigo Gudiño is able to understand what makes a good horror film however. Founder of Rue Morgue, Canada’s premier horror magazine, Gudiño is steeped in horror appreciation and fandom. He is a personal inspiration in that regard—another positive example for me of a filmmaker who has crossed over from being a critic. Gudiño filmmaking partner has been producer Marco Pecota, as the two are the main figures behind Rue Morgue Cinema, a spinoff of the magazine, which has several notable short films under its belt, including the 2007 Raindance winner Demonology of Desire. Gudiño’s next project is reported to be an upcoming feature.