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Film / The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow

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Look Closely...

A short film, written and directed by Rodrigo Gudiño, and starring Julian Richings, Alan Alderton and Lea Lawrynowicz.

In 1933, Johnny Hollow took a photograph of a woman holding a child and three men at a campsite. However, the camera pans around the photograph to reveal that things are not quite right. What is that weird symbol on everybody's wrist? What are they going to burn in that fire? As the movie progresses, the photograph changes, getting progressively more unsettling. Watch all six minutes of it here.

This film provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Ending: The movie ends with the goddess of evil Keres taking off her hood. Is this merely the deduction of the investigator, concluding the ritual summoned her? Or has the creature emerged from the picture itself to attack the investigator? What happened to the priests or the baby? Nobody can tell.
  • Badass Preacher: The Young Priest aiming a shotgun, who, along with an Old Priest who appears to be blessing his action, is revealed to be hidden behind the trees, out of the sightline of the cultists.
  • The Case of...: "Mister (Johnny) Hollow" the photographer who has sent a mysterious photo of four figures at a campsite to an Occult Detective investigating paganism in Ontario, Canada.
  • Conspiracy Placement: Batwinged Caduceus are tattooed prominently on the wrists of the men, as well as embossed on a leatherbound book on the investigator's desk, marking these men as members of the cult.
  • Creepy Changing Painting: The campsite photo first appears simply examined in detail, then the camera zooms in to a degree and angle impossible to achieve if the photograph remains two-dimensional, craning to reveal the reflection in a car's sideview mirror as though the viewer had stepped inside the photo rather than looked at it. From that point onward, elements change through the course of various dizzying zooms, with facial expressions altered, limbs positioned differently and other figures revealed in reflected surfaces and hidden behind trees.
  • Demonic Possession: The ending implies Keres is in the process of posessing the leather jacket cultist and maybe the investigator.
  • Don't Go in the Woods: The woods of northern Ontario are where a Secret Circle of Secrets/Mystery Cult get up to the dirty business of worshipping ancient death-goddesses, and its heavily implied that Human Sacrifice is a part of that worship.
  • God of Evil: The Mystery Cult worships the Keres, understood to be evil Greco-Roman goddesses in the film. Though not detailed in the film itself, in Classical Mythology they are the daimones (Anthropomorphic Personifications) of violent, painful death, and serve as particularly nasty Psychopomps who thirst for human blood.
  • The Great Depression: Set in the fall of 1933, as an Occult Detective of the period investigates a Spooky Photograph that may contain evidence of a cult operating in Ontario.
  • Hero of Another Story: The identity, motivation and backstory of the shotgun-wielding preachers is left unexplained. It's also left open whether they succeed or not in stopping the ritual
  • Hillbilly Horrors: involves the investigation of a Mystery Cult in the woods of northern Ontario, and a camping trip that may have gone very, very wrong.
  • Human Sacrifice: Heavily Implied to be practiced by the Mystery Cult, and almost certainly the intended fate of the infant in the photo.
  • Literary Allusion Title: Though it only has a short form and the Paranormal Investigation horror subgenre in common, the film's title is modeled after Edgar Allan Poe's Fictional Document short story "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar."
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Considering that the subject of the photo is a Secret Circle of Secrets, and its observer an Occult Detective, it's left rather ambiguous as to whether the elements of the photo that visibly change or manifest detail beyond what the eye could see are symbolic of the investigator's gradual epiphany as they tie events together and notice new details, a Glamour Failure on the part of the cultists, indicators of a potentially lethal Portal Picture, or some combination of all three.
  • Mystery Cult: Implied, the "Paganism" practiced revolves around a secret Greco-Roman religion, with its practitioners having spread as far as northern Ontario.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Johnny Hollow, the eponymous photographer who sent the campsite photo, is named after the Dark Wave electronic group who's song "Alchemy" provides the film's soundtrack. (It's co-director, Vincent Marcone, is a member.) The short was initially conceived as a music video before developing into a more fully-plotted short film.
  • Occult Detective: The unseen viewpoint character who is the recipient of Mister Hollow's photo, actively investigating paganism in Ontario.
  • Paranormal Investigation: An unseen investigator researches a Mystery Cult that worships Greco-Roman death-goddesses, exploring whether the cult and its gods are real.
  • Pen Name/Sue Donym: Careful examination of the Occult Detective's other documents reveals that Johnny Hollow is an alias adopted by Johnathon H. Ollow, a writer for The Greater Toronto Gazette.
  • Photos Lie: Played for Drama as the premise of the film. The photo seems relatively innocuous until the camera progresses from showing particular details to showing things no viewer could see with the naked eye. (The contents of a sideview mirror's reflection at an angle not seen in the photo, the presence of figures obscured behind the trees.) Eventually, elements of the photo begin to change outright, suggesting that the investigator who's researching the photo is beginning to piece together a narrative about the more sinister context in which the photo was taken, as well as hinting that the photo itself may be possessed.
  • Psychological Horror: An Occult Detective investigating a Mystery Cult has to slowly piece together the larger, sinister context in which a Spooky Photograph was taken, communicated by small details present in the photo itself, building to a conclusion that is either symbolic of the investigator's epiphany, or an explicit paranormal manifestation.
  • Religious Horror: The film follows the examination of a photo containing possible evidence of a Greco-Roman cult in Northern Ontario, connected with the disappearances of over one-hundred children. Though not Satanic in nature, the cult is explicitly presented as anti-Christian.
  • Sacred Scripture: From the pan over various case-related Fictional Documents, the viewer can see that the film's Occult Detective has managed to secure a copy of the Mystery Cult's holy book, with its telltale batwinged Caduceus embossed on the leather.
  • Sanity Slippage: On the part of Johnny Hollow, if the random mixture of uppercase and lowercase letters (and zeroes standing in for some instances of the letter O) in the typewritten covering letter is any indication.
  • Scrapbook Story: Presented as a collection of case documents, but mostly a long examination of one particular photo of four figures at a campsite.
  • Secondary Character Title: Johnny Hollow is unseen, as the photographer who took the photo that's the subject of the film. His only "appearance" is via the text of a letter, warning the recipient, an Occult Detective viewpoint character, to "look closely."
  • Secret Circle of Secrets: The "paganism" of the film is presented piecemeal, via newspaper articles, letters, reference materials and the photo, and the viewer is meant to infer that the Keres-worshippers are hard-to-track and have been operating in secret for quite some time.
  • Secret Society Group Picture: The Occult Detective and his eponymous source correctly presume Hollow's Spooky Photograph depicts a Mystery Cult operating in Ontario, but the atypically rustic environs, the jocularity of some of the figures, and several odd details heavily hint not only at its membership, but also its typical practices and methods of worship, including Human Sacrifice.
  • Slasher Smile: The face of the The cultist with the matchstick gradually morphs into one.
  • Spooky Photographs: Johnny Hollow's photo of the four figures and a baby at a campsite, all involved in a Mystery Cult, becomes progressively spookier, first showing a body that should be invisible to the viewer, then combining this with subtly changing expressions and limb position so that time seems to be passing in the photo, until explicitly paranormal elements are introduced, culminating with a demonic presence seemingly moving directly towards the viewer.
  • Whispering Ghosts: Unintelligible whispering and echoing voices mumble and susserate over the opening credits and through a pan over several Fictional Documents until settling on a photo, fading out when the opening notes of the soundtrack play. The whispering begins again during the closing credits.