Film Review with Robert Mann – The Hole

The Hole 3D ***
The Hole 2D **½

Director Joe Dante is not a director whose films easily attract moviegoers. Of his best known features (clearly so given that the studio marketing The Hole have opted to say “From the director of Gremlins” in the trailer), the supposedly family friendly (although blatantly not give the UK 15 rating for both) horror(esque) films Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch, only the first film was successful at the box office, with the second proving to be a pretty big miss, certainly not helped by a tendency towards in-jokes.
His 1998 film Small Soldiers also proved to be a big flop, on paper sounding like a film ideally targeted at kids yet with militaristic themes and a level of violence that made it blatantly unsuitably for the very demographic it seemed so perfectly aimed at. And his last Hollywood film, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, while seemingly aimed at younger viewers, was so packed full of references and in-jokes relating to classic Hollywood movies, that its target audience probably wouldn’t even have heard of let alone seen, that it struggled to find any sizable audience at all. Clearly Dante’s track record to date showcases a tendency towards making films that appeal to small niche audiences rather than finding mainstream success, most of the aforementioned films being closer to cult hits than box office smashes. Now, seven years since his last major Hollywood movie, Dante himself is back in action and making the move into the latest wave of 3D movies with The Hole, a film that aims to do the whole ‘Gremlins’ thing again in (supposedly) being a horror film aimed at a family audience (is such a thing even possible?) and a film that once again seems headed for cult rather than mainstream success. Having been shot in 3D rather than converted in post production, is this a 3D movie that truly gives you value for the extra cost of a 3D ticket or will you feel like you have just thrown your money down a bottomless pit with no hope of getting it back?

Life is throwing up big changes for 17-year-old Dane Thompson (Chris Massoglia) and his 10-year-old brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble). Together with their mother Susan (Teri Polo), the boys move from New York City to the sleepy little town of Bensonville. For Dane, the only exciting thing about this place is Julie (Haley Bennett), the smart, attractive and friendly girl next door. But things are about to get more interesting than Dane could ever have imagined! In the basement of the Thompson’s house, the trio find a locked trap door, beneath which is a sinister and seemingly-bottomless hole. And when the hole is exposed, an evil force is unleashed. With strange shadows now lurking around every corner and past nightmares coming to life, Dane, Lucas and Julie must face their darkest fears to battle the power of The Hole.

While billed as a ‘family friendly’ horror movie and marketed towards the family moviegoing audience (trailer for this film have appeared before numerous family movies this year), The Hole is in no way a family movie. Suffice to say, if you’re thinking about taking any young children to see this film, heed this warning – DON’T. While tame by grown up horror standards, the level of creepiness, number of jump scares and one particularly gruesome scene – it involves a person’s brain being exposed at the back of their head – ensure that any younger viewers who do see this will probably be having nightmares for some time. The film doesn’t just push against the boundary of its 12A rating but stands right on it, only barely managing to avoid the same 15 rating awarded to Gremlins with both the aforementioned gory scene and some rather inappropriate innuendos (although likely to be overlooked by some younger viewers who won’t understand the double entendres) that feature in the dialogue making it clear that this film wasn’t really made for kids. For slightly older viewers, i.e. teenagers, however, there is quite a bit to enjoy and any teens who like scares may well the find more frightening than some of the lame horror movies that Hollywood tends to churn out, even if adults may not see what the fuss is really about. There is an air of creepiness present from the very first moment we see the basement – it is a creepy enough place even without the bottomless pit beneath it – and the film goes to some pretty dark places, both literally and figuratively, much of what happens happening in minimal light (not so much that we can’t see what is happening though) and some of themes dealt with being surprisingly intense as the characters each face their inner demons. The film also boasts some wonderfully weird and bizarre set design which really adds to level of creepiness and it is in the scenes that these feature where the 3D works best, particularly the scene where Dane enters the dream-esque world that exists within The Hole, with the 3D really bringing the hyper-surreal environment to life. The 3D also proves effective in establishing The Hole as a bottomless pit, the extra dimension really making us believe that is bottomless and really creating a sense of how mysterious it is. In the more mundane, everyday scenes, however, the 3D is largely pointless. Aside from a gimmicky but irrelevant shot involving a baseball and a sequence set in around a swimming pool, the 3D doesn’t add a whole lot to proceedings, even though it is true 3D which makes objects truly appear three dimensional and adds real depth to the visuals. Unfortunately, this depth is lacking in other aspects of the film. The plot is only slight and occasionally borders on incoherence, with little actual insight given into what The Hole actually is, the dialogue is merely passable and the characters are rather bland, insufficient development being given to them, something which is problematic given that the characters’ pasts all come back to haunt them as they face their personal fears, pasts that are barely even alluded to elsewhere. Suffice to say, the writing isn’t up to much and, sadly, the same can also be said of the cast, which mostly consists of unknowns. The biggest name in the film, Teri Polo, is given very little of real consequence to do, while the young leads certainly scare convincingly but are too uncharismatic to really entertain. Consequently, The Hole proves to be watchable but little more, being far from Joe Dante’s best work and definitely not a classic to follow Gremlins. Overall, this is a film that will prove too scary for really young viewers and probably not scary enough for adults but has enough going for it to keep teenage viewers amused, just not overwhelmed.



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Review by Robert Mann BA (Hons)

© BRWC 2010.


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Alton loves film. He is founder and Editor In Chief of BRWC.  Some of the films he loves are Rear Window, Superman 2, The Man With The Two Brains, Clockwise, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Trading Places, Stir Crazy and Punch-Drunk Love.

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