Say what you want about Miles Doleac’s cinematic output, but there’s no denying the man’s a filmmaking machine. His less-than-a-decade-long resume already boasts over two dozen credits. He writes, produces, directs and acts in his films. I reviewed – and rather enjoyed – his 2016 crime/drama/mystery hybrid The Hollow, which starred a plethora of B-movie thespians and paid homage to sleazy, sweaty exploitation flicks of yore. Doleac’s ambition to become the next Robert Rodriguez is quite apparent.
Hallowed Ground sees Doleac boldly venture into horror – the psychedelic, Satanic kind; the kind another current multi-tasking auteur, Ben Wheatley, is known for (see: the brilliant Kill List). Sadly, it’s a major step back for Doleac. Without the support of screen veterans to help propel his preposterous feature into the pantheon of “so bad they’re good” movies, the filmmaker’s left with hammy acting and a threadbare, repetitive narrative, 90% of which is exposition. Nary a moment rings true, nary a moment elicits anything close to chills or dread – or, at the very least, unintentional laughs.
“Married couple…decide to rekindle their deteriorating relationship by staying in a cabin that’s located smack in the middle of a sacred Native American site…”
After an intriguing opening that takes place in Mississippi, 1889 – and involves a gruesome decapitation/skinning by a claw-handed Native American shaman – Doleac hurriedly cuts to the much-less-intriguing present. Married couple Vera (Sherri Eakin) and Alice (Lindsay Anne Williams) decide to rekindle their deteriorating relationship by staying in a cabin that’s located smack in the middle of a sacred Native American site. I’d say it were a good thing that Vera studies Native American burial grounds, but her academic research clearly proves insufficient, as next thing they know, the young women are trapped on the titular “hallowed grounds” for exactly 48 hours (Satan’s stopwatch happens to be highly accurate, in case you’re wondering).
Doleac stuffs a lot into the narrative, yet curiously, none of it resonates. There’s the land proprietor, Nita (Mindy Van Kuren), whose sole role is too blankly reveal things about her cursed ancestors to our leads. There’s the lil’ hick boy with a dead cat called Lonny (Scott Bolster), who is taught to crucify people and skin troublesome cats. There’s Bill (Doleac), Lonny’s tutoring father, who’s also the sheriff, who’s also the leader of a local satanic cult. There’s Thatcher (Jeremy Sande), Alice’s loathsome ex, who comes into the picture spitting lines like, “Have you ever f****d a camera?” There’s torture, caning, human sacrificing, and a spirit-like being, named The Bone Picker for “peeling flesh from bones.” Oo-kay.
“There’s torture, caning, human sacrificing, and a spirit-like being, named The Bone Picker…”
None of this makes a lick of sense, Doleac failing to tell a coherent story, sustain momentum, or generate suspense. Even gore-hounds with low expectations won’t find a lot to savor here – apart from several relatively shocking images. The film’s all bark and no bite. What’s worse are its tacked-on, lousy stabs at relevance, its pseudo-subversive protagonists’ trivial discussions of prejudice, the sexuality spectrum and infidelity inducing perhaps the film’s only (weak) laughs. It certainly doesn’t function as a statement about Native American oppression either.
The leads’ leaden line delivery doesn’t help matters – not that the lines they deliver could be delivered in any sensible way. “I’m under the opinion that you don’t need to talk in order to communicate, I want to f**k you,” Alice proclaims at one point. “I don’t know what’s more emotional than betrayal,” Vera retorts later. “The ancestors know the character of souls,” Nita explains nonsensically. “There is no peace here, only fire and blood,” Doleac’s Bill the Cult Leader rasps, as the ludicrous antlers on his head bob furiously. The dialogue’s so dreadful, the film almost becomes a parody of itself, its solemnity and dullness, unfortunately, preventing it from happening. Ritchie Montgomery’s Sandy – a tractor-driving, scruffy old man who guards the sacred land with his rifle – could’ve been the film’s mere saving grace, but even he gets swept up in the final act’s whirlpool of gibberish.
Maybe Doleac should scale back on the multitasking and take a moment to recharge. Yes, he’s a one-man filmmaking factory – and he’s surely shown promise before – but with missteps like this, he won’t be stomping the hallowed grounds of his revered peers anytime soon.
Hallowed Ground (2019) Written and Directed by Miles Doleac. Starring Miles Doleac, Ritchie Montgomery, Sherri Eakin, Michael Randall, Lindsay Anne Williams, Jeremy Sande,Creek Wilson.
3 out of 10