In 2001 there was a great little twisty thriller called The Hole starring Thora Birch, Keira Knightley and Desmond Harrington, amongst others. Which has nothing to do with this movie, I just thought I’d mention it first and drive home the point that this is NOT that film (for anyone who didn’t catch the year of realease when perhaps skimming this review).
This movie IS a thriller though. Or, as others have mentioned, it’s a child-friendly horror . . . . . . . . depending on how old/mature/brave your child is. It’s all about two brothers who find, not long after they’ve moved into their new home, that the basement has a deep hole in it. So deep that they can’t figure out how far down it goes as nothing makes any sound and other attempts to explore it prove pretty worthless. A deep hole. Oh, but this particular hole was covered by a pretty solid door with a large number of pretty solid padlocks and it seems to be able to manifest the deepest fears of those who end up coming into contact with it. Not good news for the brothers or the cute young girl who lives next door and befriends them, enjoying the mystery and thrill of the situation until she finds that her own fear is kept down there as well.
Despite the fact that I knew it wasn’t really aimed at my age group (it’s more for the early to mid-teen range and I saw those years go by all too long ago) I was really looking forward to this movie. Why? Because it’s directed by Joe Dante, that’s why, and the man who gave us the greatness of Piranha, The Howling and Gremlins gets a free pass from me for a long, long time. I haven’t seen any of his movies that I’ve disliked. Even that Loony Tunes movie. If you’re a movie lover and you haven’t seen Matinee then do so immediately. Then you too will love Joe Dante.
Aside from the directing talent of Mr Dante, I thought The Hole sounded like it could be at least a bit of fun. Released in 3D, though I only saw it in 2D so can’t comment on the fun added by the added dimension, it seemed like it could be passable popcorn fare. And it is. In fact, it was only when the movie ended that I had to think things over and admit to myself that I was secretly hoping for more than just passable popcorn fare.
The plot, written by Mark L. Smith (who also wrote the very entertaining Vacancy), is rather simple but does a nice job of letting the characters breathe a little bit before hitting the tension beats and building things up to a confrontation that you just know will involve one or two of the central fears explored.
The young cast all do very well. Nathan Gamble plays the younger sibling, Lucas, and is very convincing in the scenes where he has to face his particular fear. Chris Massoglia plays Dane, the older and moodier brother, and while he’s saddled with having to play the standard sullen teen with a good heart he does just fine with what he’s given and the interaction between the two brothers never feels false. Haley Bennett, as girl next door Julie, is bright and likable enough but her character never seems to be seriously affected by the things that unnerve the other characters. Barring one or two brief moments, she takes an awful lot in her stride considering how bizarre the events are. Teri Polo is the mom and does the mom thing just fine while a small turn from Bruce Dern is as enjoyable as it is brief (though it’s nice to see a typical Dante reference with the character hiding out in a glove factory named “Gloves Of Orlac”). Oh, and Dick Miller gets a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in another typical Dante wink.
The special effects are also very good, at their best when creating/adding to the fears that manifest themselves once the hole is opened up. The 3D seems to be quite impressive and a mix of indulgent moments (young Lucas throwing a ball up in the air and catching it) alongside the fun derived from the concept (as in the scene when the brothers are throwing things down the hole to try and gauge it’s depth and we get to watch from the POV of further down inside the hole). I know I can’t judge this facet, having not seen it in that form, but I suspect the movie could be one of the few that actually has the third dimension adding to the enjoyable experience of the thing.
It’s fun, it’s not too scary but still has some creepiness here and there and it’s something to perhaps help any horror fan introduce their kids to the genre when they reach a suitable age. For teens seeking out their own thrills without venturing straight into blood-soaked 18-cert territory, however, I still recommend the hugely enjoyable Disturbia. Perhaps I have grown a bit too old for the target demographic that Dante aims for or perhaps he’s still got something great to give me further down the line. However it turns out, I will always await his movies eagerly. Even if they turn out to be simply passable.
DIRECTOR: JOE DANTE
CAST: CHRIS MASSOGLIA, NATHAN GAMBLE, HALEY BENNETT, TERI POLO, BRUCE DERN
RUNTIME: 92 MINS APPROX