DVD Review – The Hole

* Spoiler ahoy!*

Dane, 17, and Lucas, 10, are uprooted for the dozenth time by their mother as they try to keep out of reach of their abusive father. Moving into a small town where the diner still appears to be the hot spot of activity Dane and Lucas discover something much more interesting in their basement – a bottomless hole.

Accompanied by neighbour Julie, who Dane develops a quick crush on the boys attempt to unlock the secrets contained within the hole. Once opened the hole begins to spew forth horrors directly relating to the fears of each of the group culminating in a battle which will force each of them to confront their greatest terrors.

It is fantastic to see director Joe Dante do what he does best. The Hole brings you with the notion that you’re going to sit back and watch a pleasant, spooky kids drama. All the ingredients are there – broken family, sibling rivalry, falling for the girl next door. But what Dante has always been masterful at is subverting audience expectation in this most delightfully anarchic way. Like Gremlins, The’ Burbs and even the Eerie Indiana series before it The Hole presents us with a seemingly straight forward set up which becomes increasingly twisted and dark.

I can honestly say that I was genuinely unnerved by several moments in the film. After the last few years of horror films going direct for the visceral gore and bloodshed it is refreshing to find a film that enjoys going for some good old fashioned chills. That damn clown which was plastered over the cinema posters and the DVD cover does manage to induce jumps even though you know it’s going to pop out – the clown also provides a couple of Gremlin-esque moments. Other moments where ghostly faced little girls creep out of The Hole provide chills that you wouldn’t expect and perhaps that’s why it is an effective horror. When released in theatres last year, in 3D the DVD is the 2D version, it was advertised as an all round family entertainment film. This film is rated 12 and it really is designed for 12 year olds and over (well maybe 10 year olds). The scares contained within are surprisingly intense. Even the notion that the family is on the run from an abusive father feels to dark to be made a plot point in a children’s film, especially as Dane reveals his greatest fear to be his Dad.

In a film that deals directly with teenagers greatest fears it does seem appropriate to find the subtext somewhere. Dane stands up to his father thereby becoming his own man in the process. Julie must confront an event from her past that has never fully let her be the person she wants to be. The two of them confronting these fears allows them to step into maturity on their own terms with no fear of the future. And Lucas… well he has a punch up with a clown doll.

Performances are surprisingly strong throughout. Teri Polo, as Susan the mother, makes a role which could have been dull into something sardonically entertaining. Susan is presented as the work-weary, but oh-so-loving mother, she makes mistakes and perhaps at times things mainly about herself. Chris Massoglia and Haley Bennet who play Dane and Julie are occasionally a bit lifeless. Massoglia particularly has such a laid back style of delivery it can sometimes be interpreted as wooden. Bennett on the other hand is much more overt but in moments of real emotional drama seems to shrink back inside herself. Nathan Gamble on the other hand who plays Lucas is the shock of the bunch. I’m usually a man who cannot stand kids as the lead actors in films but Gamble is thoroughly watchable throughout. He’s able to convey the moments of real terror and bring some light comedy touch when needed. Veteran Bruce Dern pops up as ‘Crazy Carl’ who used to live in the boys house – it’s the classic “you’re all gonna die!” role put Dern seems to have fun with his short screen time.

Dante shows that despite having been largely absent in recent years, and his last couple of films being decidedly average that he still has creativity to spare. The Hole is a horror with old-fashioned scare sensibilities updated for todays audiences. Please bare in mind that this is not a kids film, this is a horror for lovers of Where the Wild Things Are and it is nice to find a genuinely creepy horror that’s rated 12!

The Hole is out now on DVD and Blu-Ray through E1 Entertainment.

The Hole – **** stars

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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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