Starring: Chris Massoglia, Nathan Gamble, Ali Cobrin, Teri Polo, Haley Bennett, Bruce Dern
Director: Joe Dante
Writer(s): Mark L. Smith
Cinematography: Theo van der Sande
Original Score: Javier Navarrete
Running Time: 92 Mins.
So while Sly Stallone harks back at the 80’s action genre and Oliver Stone takes us back to Wall Street, Joe Dante continues this year’s 80’s revival by returning to the genre he is most famous for, the family friendly horror film with a suburban setting, so after Gremlins, The Burbs and Small Soldiers, all hugely entertaining films and all deeply creepy in their own right. So it comes as little surprise that The Hole goes a long way to emulating his past successes which is a relief to all movie-lovers after he ventured into more mainstream territory and the bugbear of studio interference with Looney Tunes: Back In Action.
That The Hole isn’t preceded by a big studio name gives a lot of weight to the hope that it won’t follow the usual teens/kids making a discovery and overcoming them while mom/dad is away (see last years Aliens In The Attic for an example of this setup by-the-numbers) and I can happily report that while not quite breaking the mould it certainly pushes boundaries and all the right buttons to be adequately creepy, tellingly more so than in most of the gore-drenched horror output for “adults”, for example compare Billy the puppet from Saw, to a clown puppet in The Hole and you have a hands down winner in the clown!
Dante knows how to elicit likeable and realistic performances from child/teen actors and does so once more here, Massoglia and Cobrin and perfectly likeable but far from perfect and both endure hardship upon the film’s close that would unlikely be greenlit in a mainstream family film, taking in child abuse and death in a non-cloying way to make the film shocking enough but not at the cost of entertainment and pure enjoyment, this is a family caper lets not forget and it is in this balancing act that Dante is most successful, building the tension around the characters whilst building up the characters themselves, heck even the younger brother doesn’t prove to be irritating and cutesy, a minor triumph in itself.
All of this character work is hung around a very simple concept, there’s a hole in the basement of the kids new house, they join forces with the neighbour and open the hatch to the hole which then unleashes “something”, it is this something that is the conundrum of the film. Hardly a taxing proposition if you have seen the trailer but even if you guess to some extent what is going on the fright factor is persistent. Keeping things hidden, limiting it to a glimpse here, a drop of blood there, and creepy glimpses of that dreaded clown puppet, something which means that those with coulrophobia will undoubtedly find this the scariest film since Stephen King’s It prowled the screens.
Sadly all Dante’s hard work collapses when the hole is entered in the final 20 minutes, and what is down there is less scary and more disturbing in context while the set design reeks of low-budget, something which only proves to be an issue when a good idea is deemed in need of a bigger pay-off that doesn’t meld with the rest of the film. What is good about The Hole will likely be left slightly tarnished by this and the largely needless and gimmick laden 3D lavished upon these closing scenes, but do not let that put you of what is undoubtedly one of the creepiness 60 or so minutes you will spend in a cinema this year.
Scary, fun and well acted by a fledgling cast, The Hole is likely also one of the creepiest films you will see all year, then there’s that final 20 minutes..,.