The Hole In The Ground: Review

The Hole In The Ground

A spider scuttles towards the freedom of an Irish forest from the garden of new homeowner Sarah and her son Chris. Promising spine tingles and wide (or tightly shut) eyes from the off, Lee Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground follows Sarah’s journey through doubt into mania over the sudden change to Chris’s demeanour. As he crushes the fleeing spider beneath his shoe, it’s hard not to think that the poor creature was probably more afraid of Chris than he was of it. And with good reason.

An encounter with a disturbed stranger, coupled with some pleasingly disjointed exposition, sets up for the possibility of history repeating itself in a horrifying way. Cronin invites us to revel in a delicious build, as Sarah discovers a huge (titular) sink hole in the forest near her house. It is here that Stephen McKeon’s overpowering score begins to betray the film’s main issue – familiarity. For every discordant piano note and crescendo of screeching strings, there is a hint of déjà vu. Cronin doesn’t go to particular lengths to make the piece stand out from the thousands of films that have come before, despite delivering those tropes to a wickedly high standard

This hardly hampers enjoyment or thrills however, as the film’s second act masterfully descends into something close to terror. One night, Sarah wakes to find Chris missing from bed, discovering him sometime later alone by the sinkhole. But Sarah is guided hint by hint towards the realisation that the son who entered the forest may not be the one who returned. Chris is ravenous when before he turned his nose up at food, he is less precocious and more polite, at least at first. Playing Chris, James Quinn Markey skilfully switches gears as the changeling son, with the ability of someone far beyond his age and experience. 



Seána Kerslake’s performance is similarly impressive. It is a pleasure to watch and be a part of Sarah’s plight, Kerslake drawing us in with a brilliantly naturalistic performance that cements her place among the greatest of modern horror heroines. As Sarah crawls through a claustrophobic, dark underground tunnel towards her goal, we feel everything weighing down on her, everything screaming at her to give up. And we silently rejoice in watching her refuse to do so, continuing to wriggle through the dirt.

Like other recent entries into the hall of horror fame (Get Out and A Quiet Place spring to mind), The Hole in the Ground sacrifices a strong opening for an end that doesn’t quite hold up. Cronin’s enemy is pacing – the film is over before intrigue has a chance to properly build to a climax, and the director might have been better off workshopping a different outcome, or at least giving some more time to his chosen plot. At 90 minutes, you wouldn’t be blamed for feeling a tad underwhelmed by a film so close to something great, but a little too short and hampered by clichés to be memorable.


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