Survive The Hollow Shoals (2018) Movie Review - Good Effort Found Footage Horror

Horror | 78 min
Survive the Hollow Shoals Cover Image
  • Release Date: 01 Jan, 2018
  • Country: USA
  • Genre: Horror
  • Language: English
  • Horror | 78 min

Zach Weiland is a survival enthusiast who embarks on a 60 day survival challenge in the Hollow Shoals of Georgia. His primary objective is to find clean drinkable water, build a shelter and create a fire. Throughout Zach's survival challenge he is stalked and harassed by an evil entity that haunts the Shoals

Welcome to Knockout Horror and to our very first horror movie review. I suppose I should have attempted to kick things off with a bang. Perhaps I should have reviewed a modern classic such as “Hereditary” or “Get Out” (both movies which I did go on to review so click the links if you wish to check out my opinion)? Maybe I should have taken a look at a recent cinema release such as “Us” or “Pet Sematary“. I could even have jumped into the virtual DeLorean to review an all time hit like “The Shining” or “Alien”. Doesn’t that seem a little too easy, though?

Sure, these movies will all get their respective chance but for Knockout Horror’s first review I wanted something a little more humble. Something a little more Prime Video. Something a little more “Survive the Hollow Shoals”.

Well, I say Prime Video but this movie actually started off life as a YouTube Web Series, I believe. Each day’s footage was uploaded individually as their own, small, self contained episode. Eventually the episodes were compiled together and Survive The Hollow Shoals was born as an entire movie.

Meet Zach!

Directed by Jonathan Klimek and starring Brent McGhee. Survive the Hollow Shoals is a somewhat intimate portrayal of our protagonist Zach Weiland and his foray into the world of outdoor survival. Playing on the very popular, late 2010’s, trend of survivalism and vlogging one’s adventures in the wilderness. This movie depicts Zach’s attempts to live in the middle of nature for 60 days with nothing to aid him but the bare essentials. It’s just Zach, his trusty knife, his steel water vessel, and his very nice hat that he sometimes places over his eyes to help him sleep during the day.

Naturally, this wouldn’t be a horror movie if  Zach wrapped up his 60 days out in the woods by submitting his application to Survivor. Things take a turn for the worse almost immediately. Zach begins to feel uneasy before noticing things amiss. Noises keep him up throughout the night and it is clear that something is very wrong. Obviously, this causes him substantial alarm. Determined to find the source of the noise, Zach sets up a camera trap and that’s where the horror steps in.

Zach, the protagonist of Survive the Hollow Shoals

This is Zach – you will see him a lot and he will always look scared or bored.

Obviously Zach is the star of the show here and he is ably performed by Brent McGhee. If IMDB is to be believed, he has only one acting credit to his name so kudos are due. He is a likable character with a hearty beard and a fairly natural rapport with the camera. With the exception of some relatively muted reactions to the events occurring around him. Brent McGhee does a pretty nice job. I certainly wouldn’t be disappointed to see his name pop up on horror movies in the future.

Found Footage Horror Woes?

In a theme that most of us will be familiar with thanks to the boom of Youtube and Vlogging. Zach spends a considerable amount of time documenting his trip out into the wild using a video camera. This fits the narrative quite nicely and keeps the budget down. It also forces Survive the Hollow Shoals to slip into the much maligned “Found Footage” genre of horror. I actually enjoy Found Footage Horror so no complaints here.

Survive the Hollow Shoals does an adequate job of avoiding many of the typical found footage pitfalls. Namely the dreaded shaky cam, with the exception of a few scenes. Some of the cinematography is, actually, fairly nice. Night time scenes are well lit and any use of night vision cameras is well placed and clear. You are never really left squinting to see what’s going on.

Zach, from Survive the Hollow Shoals, stoking a fire

Zach often looks as though he wishes he had brought along an inflatable chair

There are a fair number of jump cuts and tight camera angles that give the whole movie a bit of an amateur feel but that has to be expected given the format. It fits the whole “man makes YouTube video of survival stuff” pretty well despite some of the cuts not making a whole lot of sense. It can be a bit baffling when the shot zooms or cuts considering Zach is the only person operating the camera.

Half the time, Zach is too busy starting fires to actually realign the camera. Couple that with Zach’s infinite supply of batteries and the immersion can drop just a tad. This was an issue with The Blair Witch Project and it is an issue here. I can’t take more than 20 pictures on a DSLR without the damn batteries draining. Still, part of enjoying horror movies is suspending disbelief, right?

The location in Survive the Hollow Shoals isn't very imposing

Scary? This looks like an awesome picnic spot to me.

Horror tropes and a failed gamble

Survive the Hollow Shoals shows its hand almost immediately and it is to the detriment of the film. I won’t specify what it is because I don’t want to ruin things for anyone. But if you notice it you will spend the first 25 minutes of the film playing Where’s Waldo whenever a wide angle camera shot appears. Plenty of movies have done the exact same thing and succeeded. Survive the Hollow Shoals, in my opinion, does not. The result is a serious punch in the nose to what is some, otherwise, pretty decent tension on the first few nights.

This really speaks to the greater issue with the movie itself. It seems as though Survive the Hollow Shoals’ director Jonathan Klimek couldn’t wait to get the scares rolling. Survive the Hollow shoals is Klimek’s only movie, even as I am updating this in 2024, and, unfortunately, it suffers for his inexperience and lack of patience. I really feel we would have benefited from a few nights of character development.

We should only have experienced the slightest hint at spooky goings on. Instead we have a few minutes of Zach talking into the camera before we are bombarded by a relentless onslaught of noises and visual scares. This doesn’t stop right up until the film reaches its final stanza.

This wouldn’t be the problem it is if the film had a little more originality but Survive the Hollow Shoals is very trope heavy. It comes out bearing such classics as musical cues with an undertone of infrasound. “Did you or didn’t you see it” glimpses of figures. Camera interference, watching eyes, bestial screams, and some of the most aggressive jump scares I have seen in quite awhile. The last 30 minutes of Survive the Hollow Shoals are basically a movie version of those dumb screamer videos that people used to share on social media.

Where have I seen this before?

It is hard to watch Survive the Hollow Shoals without drawing comparisons to The Blair Witch Project. We have creepy noises at night. The movie is set in a similar, yet less imposing, location. Zach wakes up to wooden effigies surrounding his camp.  There is a constant sense of dread and the woods feel seemingly endless.

Survive the Hollow Shoals leans a lot on the tropes of The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project wants its props back

It is all just very familiar. Sure, Survive the Hollow Shoals goes in a different direction towards the end. But, unfortunately, this doesn’t really change much. The movie never manages to feel like much more than an overly familiar, deep woods, found footage horror movie. It is extremely paint by numbers but a good effort is a good effort and it deserves praise for that. It is watchable and less demanding viewers will, likely, find at least something to enjoy.

Should You Watch Survive The Hollow Shoals?

If you go into Survive the Hollow Shoals not expecting too much you may actually quite enjoy it. Zach is likable, the location is beautiful, though not very imposing, and the camera work is, for the most part, pretty adequate. The scares are, unfortunately, quite predictable and there are missteps here and there but there is also plenty to enjoy.

Survive the Hollow Shoals is an okay horror movie with a short enough run time to not feel punishing and enough jump scares to rattle the bones of even seasoned horror fans. A hidden gem? Not by a long shot. If you don’t expect too much, you may actually really enjoy this movie.

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