I normally don’t factor in the crowdfunding campaign when reviewing a movie, but in the case of the Mississippi shot Hallowed Ground, I feel it’s a good place to start. According to IndieGoGo, the film only raised $454 of its $50K goal, something that would severely depress and discourage any filmmaker. Not Miles Doleac, actor, director, and I believe musician too. His horror of Southern/Satanic aggression uses every penny gathered to produce something pretty memorable. It’s not what I would call a good movie, mind you, but I had a blast laughing at the camp, whether intentional or not. Suffice to say, Miles was able to make Manos out of very little. And that must be rewarded.
By Manos, I mean Manos: The Hands of Fate – which translates to Hands: The Hands of Fate – long considered one of the worst films ever made. Featured prominently and infamously on Mystery Science Theater 3000, Manos featured long and boring scenes of rambling and incoherent dialogue, peculiar and creepy storytelling, and shabby production design (though that was the least of concerns). Instead of being relegated to obscurity, Manos stands glued together with fondness directed at it and a high fandom status surrounding it. The same, I envision, for Hallowed Ground. The two movies have similar plots, being about city folk who stumble upon vague cult rituals out in the sticks, but where they differ is that Hallowed attempts to be about more.
A lesbian couple retreat to an Airbnb run by a Native American woman who waxes spiritually often and at great length, in order to fix an indiscretion in the relationship. On their second day, they accidentally touch a barbed wired fence, which separates the property from crazy Confederate dragon worshippers. A mere touch on a fence equals trespassing, though I suspect they just don’t approve of certain lifestyles and wanted an excuse to attack. From here, things go nuts and bonkers.
Miles Doleac plays the leader of this cult, and takes it all too seriously, despite mostly mumbling and yelling gibberish and long-winded speeches. The writing in Hallowed Ground is awfully overwrought, overdone, and overtly silly, dragging on and on for several minutes past time for a cut. When a man appears in the couple’s vacation spot to cause trouble, he says in an attempt at intimidation, “Have you ever f***ed a camera!?” No, I don’t believe I have, but I now know what it’s like to be on the other end of that equation. Hallowed Ground is pretty terrible, you know, but more laughable than anything. If you’re like me, you’ll be chuckling more than wanting to pull your hair out.
Scenes go on and on and on, with little energy and a lot of self-importance. It’s as if Doleac felt that by being somewhat about Deep Southern hate and featuring an LGBT story handled as soap opera-y as possible, that Hallowed Ground would appeal to more audiences than average. Indeed, this will reach moviegoers far and wide, but I suspect as a selection for the Mystery Science Theater 3000 project Rifftrax. Between the awkward performances and boring staging, the movie is endlessly funny, even if it doesn’t acknowledge it.
Sometimes, that makes for the best “so bad it’s good” films. That genuine element. Miles Doleac deserves much credit for that. Too many movies are made by those who couldn’t care less. At least we have a crew and cast who tried, in spite of everything.
It’s still not good though.
Hallowed Ground screened at Zeitgeist this past weekend and is now available for streaming on various VOD platforms.