Hollow in the Land

★ ★ ☆

Look the word hardscrabble up in the dictionary and you’re likely to find a picture of “Hollow in the Land’s” Alison Miller (Dianna Agron). She lives in the kind of backwater industrial town where everyone knows her business. And there’s a lot to talk about. Her father is locked up, jailed for an alcohol fuelled crime spree that ended in the death of the son of the local mill owner.

Mom is a long distant memory, having run off, leaving Alison to care for her teenage brother Brandon (Jared Abrahamson). He’s a handful. “You know one of these days you’re going to do some real damage, smart ass,” a local cop (Michael Rogers) tells him when he’s picked up for fighting, “and you’ll have bigger problems than some paperwork. You’ll be sharing a cell with your old man in no time.”

When the neighbours aren’t talking about the Miller’s troubled family history they’re gossiping about Alison and her girlfriend Charlene (Rachelle Lefevre).

Alison’s life is further scrutinized when Brandon lands in deep trouble.  The day after his girlfriend Sophie’s violent, drunken father (John Sampson) walked in on them having sex, the old man winds up dead and Brandon is the chief suspect. Convinced of his innocence she launches her own investigation only to wind up under the microscope herself.

“Hollow in the Land” is more of a snapshot of life in a small town than it is a murder mystery. The procedural aspects of the story are less interesting than the characters, which are brought to vivid, scrappy life. Argon, best known as high school cheerleader Quinn Fabray on “Glee,” brings grit to Alison, playing her as determined yet emotionally damaged.

“Hollow in the Land” will be compared to the equally grungy “Winter’s Bone.” Like that movie writer-director Scooter Corkle paints a drab picture of life in this town, creating a backwoods neo-noir with some nice details, but never really satisfies narratively.