The killer scarecrow sub-genre of horror is always fun, it allows for creative costumes/makeup, thrilling suspense utilizing cornfields and nice folky Fall vibes, but unfortunately Hallowed Ground conjures up little in the way of any of that, at least anything effective anyways. It’s the sort of low budget background noise that plays on SyFy at 2am in the early 2000’s, which is neat nostalgia but the film itself just can’t really raise a pulse. Long ago pilgrim farmer Jonas (always nice to see Nick Chinlund) uses ties to the occult to make a deal with some kind of supernatural entity that involves human sacrifice in exchange for bountiful harvests each year. Hundreds of years later the descendants of Jonas and his kin still practice this gruesome ritual which now involves monstrous living scarecrows that hunt and kill people, and one out of towner (Jaimie Alexander) whose car has broken down finds herself right in the middle of this horrific situation. The chases, kills and suspense are murky, haphazard and drearily staged, the scarecrows look pretty decent in terms of special effects but we just don’t see enough of them. The cast is alright and we get to see a very young Chloe Moretz as one of the townsfolk, but nothing here really strikes a memorable chord, and it all feels like disposable B Grade cannon fodder for late night cable or obscure streaming queues that few venture into.
Some concepts just beg to not be taken seriously and in the case of Roseanne Liang’s Shadow In The Cloud we have Chloe Moretz as a WW2 fighter pilot fighting a nasty sky gremlin while also contending with Japanese planes trying to shoot her down and some incredibly sexist fellow officers who outnumber her ten to one. Surefire recipe for camp, right? Well… kind of, but what makes this film so much fun and so successful is that despite an outrageous premise it manages to feel like a real story and not some high flying Grindhouse lark. I haven’t seen Chloe act in some time so I kind of forgot how talented she is but she gifts this character with cunning, grace, badass physicality and genuine grit. As she boards a fighter plane last minute filled with all male officers and is sent straight to the hull turret, it starts with her being belittled and mocked by them, escalates into a breathless dogfight with enemy aircrafts and finally goes supernatural bonkers when this bizarre bat/rat/alien sky gremlin shows up and tries to kill everyone. The film clocks in tightly under 80 minutes and almost has that old timey radio play feel, especially in the first act when she’s alone in the turret, the camera focuses solely on her for a sequence and we only hear everyone else on the radio, thus some of the action left to our imagination just like entertainment mediums of that day. There are some flat-out spectacular action sequences here including Chloe firing up the turret gun and ruthlessly mowing down a Jap plane with brutal precision, a hair raising forced crash landing, a hilariously unbelievable yet absolutely thrilling instance where she falls out of a hatch and plummets a few hundred feet only to be BLOWN BACK INTO the plane by the force of another one exploding below and finally a bloody, ultra-violent hand to hand mortal kombat smackdown with the ugly little bastard gremlin that is laced with adrenaline torqued choreography. It’s just a damn fun film, Chloe has a blast in the best role I’ve seen her do in years, the score by Mahuia Bridgman-Cooper ditches usual war film orchestral notes for something sleek, electronic and rhythmically modern and just overall is badass, gnarly, r rated, rollicking action war horror hybrid good times. Streaming now on Netflix.