STARRING: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Nathan Gamble

2009, 92 Minutes, Directed by:
Joe Dante

The Hole will be instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up watching movies in the 1980s . . .

It belongs to the “suburban family threatened by supernatural forces” category. Anyone who has seen the likes of (especially) Poltergeist, Gremlins and E.T. – the Extra-Terrestrial will know what I’m talking about and will be familiar with the milieu. (Even though the movie was made in 2009 the cars, fashions and even the hairstyles have more than a whiff of the early ‘Eighties about them.)

So it should come as no surprise that Joe Dante, a veteran of that bygone Spielbergian era, directed The Hole. Dante is perhaps best known for Gremlins today (which was produced by Steven Spielberg), but he is also a horror veteran who directed genre classics such as The Howling, the original Piranha and, one of the most enjoyable movies of the 1980s, Innerspace. The Hole is his first full-length feature since 2003’s underappreciated Looney Tunes: Back in Action. (Come on, my six-year old daughter loves it to bits!)

The plot involves two brothers – a teenager and his younger sibling – discovering what appears to be a bottomless pit in their basement. Needless to say something “evil” is lurking inside the pit and soon the brothers – and the teenage girl living next door – are plagued by unexplained supernatural phenomena such as an inanimate clown doll come to life and what appears to be the spirit of a dead girl.

What is amazing about The Hole is that even though much of the movie will be familiar to anyone who has seen the likes of Ringu and the Chucky movies (and, of course, haunted house flicks such as Poltergeist) Dante still manages to generate some effective thrills and scares. It all still feels fresh and invigorating. The Hole boasts some genuinely scary moments – and not just for the so-called tween crowd.

"A horror flick for mainstream audiences . . ."

Some critics have bemoaned The Hole’s lack of supposedly “adult” scares, arguing that the movie is intended for young teens and family audiences. To be honest we’re not entirely convinced that the film is as “family friendly” as they claim, probably one of the reasons why The Hole has thus far failed to have secured a U.S. distributor. (It has almost been released in every other country except the United States.) Just who is the movie aimed at? The casting may make lead one to expect something more PG-13 than the movie actually is.

The Hole will probably dissatisfy hardcore SAW horror fans looking for buckets of gore – and let’s be honest here: the movie’s final act disappoints. Like your average Stephen King novel, The Hole is all build-up and little delivery. How the story is resolved comes across as a letdown. PLOT SPOILERS! The whole “the monster can only harm you if you’re afraid of it” plot is hackneyed and tired to say the least and something not even 13-year-olds will swallow. It is interesting to note however how much the sets for the final set piece is inspired by The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, a movie made way back in 1920! END SPOILERS!

Still, despite its tepid denouement The Hole never bores and always entertains. It may be a horror flick for mainstream audiences, but to write it off as “something for kids” is short-sighted. The Hole is a welcome return to form for Dante and it is one of life’s biggest mysteries why it hasn’t managed a States-side release yet.

Check it out if you can, especially if you’re if a child of the 1980s . . .



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