Director: Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins, The ‘Burbs, Small Soldiers)
Screenplay: Mark L. Smith
Producers: David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Vicki Sotheran
Starring: Chris Massoglia, Nathan Gamble, Haley Bennett, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 92 min.
It may be a sign of the times that Joe Dante’s The Hole has gone largely undistributed since it’s completion in 2009. There was quite a bit of buzz around the PG-13 thriller when it debuted at Venice but it has sat largely unseen outside the festival circuit since then. I don’t have an answer as to why but it’s safe to assume that fans of modern thrillers prefer something a little darker but some may be surprised to find that Dante’s movie isn’t all family and teen drama – there’s also a dark streak to The Hole, despite its rating.
Dane and Lucas are brothers who just moved from the big city to a small town. There are hints that the fatherless family is running from something and partway through the movie we learn that “something” could be the boys’ father, but the details aren’t revealed until later in the movie. Exploring their new digs, the boys find a hole in the basement, a hole that seems bottomless. With the help of the cute neighbour Julie, who Dane has an obvious crush on, the trio explore the hole, sending everything from a flashlight to a camera down into the darkness but their exploration brings no answers.
And then things start to go wrong. A creepy clown appears on Lucas’ bed, seemingly out of nowhere and hell bent on killing the little boy, a young girl haunts Julie and Dane has nightmares about a large man. It seems the mysterious hole manifests your worst nightmares and the three kids must figure out how to face their fears.
It’s a great little bit of dark fantasy and Dante more than delivers the goods, foregoing jump scares for endlessly creepy scenes which are intercut with the kids developing their friendship. There are some great moments of happiness, one of the most memorable is that of Dante, Lucas and Julie decked in paintball gear, watching the hole for any signs of creepy activity before falling asleep on the stairs, but just as memorable are the scary moments: the clown chasing Lucas around the basement, the little girl who walks with an inhuman gait making her way up the stairs before crawling, in an unnerving manner, into the hole head first. They’re not exactly chilling but they’re certainly creepy.
The Hole is such a rarity, a kid friendly scary movie that actually manages to deliver scares for kids and adults alike (the clown certainly did a job on me), that it feels like a refreshing breath of air. It’s not without problems, most notably the acting from Chris Massoglia as Dane whose performance is mostly dull, and the occasional scene which was obviously shot for the benefit of 3D, but for the most part, The Hole overcomes its problems, offering up an effective thriller that can be enjoyed on family night. Hopefully the home video release will bring it the audience it deserves.
DVD Extras: A number of short videos including “Gateway to Hell: The Making of The Hole,” “The Keeper of The Hole,” “A Peek in the Hole” which includes details on the production design, puppets and prosthetics and a slideshow of production stills.