Hall is a slow moving crawl towards what seems to be a terrifying fate, using one location to suffocate and terrify its viewers.
Throughout 2020, viewers have been subjected to many variations of films about pandemic-related topics, like the fear and isolation that we’re currently feeling, and Hall is Francesco Giannini’s stab at the subject matter. The film, which definitely will irritate some audience members due to its slow moving nature, happens to be quite fascinating.
Hall opens with an eerie scene of a woman clawing her way down a hotel hallway, fighting for her life as the people around her are seemingly wasting away as well, the cause unknown. This is immediately gripping, as we’re left to wonder what exactly happened up to this point. The film flicks back in time to four hours in the past, to a family’s arrival at the same hotel. The mother of this family, Val (Carolina Bartczak), meets and makes a brief connection with a pregnant woman (whom we find out is the woman from the opening), Naomi (Yumiko Shaku), after a chance encounter on the way into the hotel. The two don’t exactly have much screen time together, but the interactions that they do have are compelling simply due to the parallels in their lives. Naomi’s pregnancy is implied to have been a product of a rape, she has decided to move to Canada in order to escape from the man who abused her, who we soon see even still attempting to contact her. We later learn that Val’s husband Branden (Mark Gibson) is abusive towards her, and that she has been wanting to escape for awhile, and finds it quite difficult, because she does not want to thwart the life of her young daughter.
Both Val and Naomi’s struggles throughout Hall‘s pandemic are implied to be a metaphor for patriarchy and male violence against women. The women who succumb to this unknown disease struggle and seemingly suffer a bit more painfully, while the men lash out more violently, their immediate reaction to hurt others around them. Val and Naomi especially feel suffocated within the hotel, and as though there is no escape from a damning fate, the same feeling that they have in their lives currently due to men they are having issues getting away from.
It is also a man that seemingly caused all of this to begin with, as a cutaway shows a man (Julian Richings) unleash the virus within the hotel. This strings along another narrative thread, as this event is implied to be some sort of terrorist attack, with a larger conspiracy behind it. This plotline isn’t at all as delved into as the former one about our main characters, and even seems a bit nonsensical at times. It feels thrown in as a half hearted attempt at explaining the spread of the disease. The entire concept of the disease being a conspiracy is also a huge reason for the post credits scene, a news broadcast that quite literally explains the events of the film and delves into the idea of the flu being weaponized, which felt completely unnecessary and even a bit insulting to the viewer. If the plotline had been given a bit more screentime to begin with, there would have been no reason for it at all.
There’s still a lot to love about Hall, though. The way that the film jumps back and forth between time feels seamless and slick, and never causes the plot to feel convoluted. It cuts at all of the right points, gets the viewer invested in the characters early on so that even more strain is felt when they’re put in danger. What’s also admirable is how simplistic the plot is and how it still manages to fill out its runtime without feeling as though it was simply stretching to make it work. Hall’s entire plot is what most films use their first acts for, and it somehow works. There are a lot of prolonged sequences and long shots, but they all help form the sense of dread needed to build the terror behind a one-location horror film. It’s so well maintained that it feels jarring whenever we get a second to breathe, whether it’s a break away from the hotel room, the switch between characters, and so on.
Hall won’t be every viewer’s cup of tea, and understandably so, as what is written here to be admirable can also be seen as tiring and a test of patience. If anything, though, Francesco Giannini’s budding style proves to be something worth looking out for, and most will find something to appreciate about his debut.
After its World Premiere at FrightFest, Hall was screened at The Blood in the Snow Film Festival on Friday, October 30, 2020. The film will be available on Digital & On Demand (US) from October 12, 2021. Click here to read our interview with the director.
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