The Hole is a 2009 Fantasy/Horror film written by Mark L. Smith and directed by seasoned horror director Joe Dante. Since The Hole was intended for 3D, I can’t do this film full justice as it’s not how I viewed it. Fortunately though, little to nothing was lost in the translation. I find too many 3D movies rely to heavily on the gimmick. It wasn’t until after viewing the film did I learn that Dante was the director. Dante is also the director of my favorite monster on the loose films, Gremlins and Gremlins 2. Not to say the Mark L . Smiths horror writing chops aren’t up to snuff, having written both Vacancy and Vacancy 2: The First Cut. The film’s plot is very simple, something that heavily works for its benefit as it allows the story to focus more on the development of the characters.
Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) move to Bensonvill with their mother Susan Thompson (Teri Polo). As per standard format Dane hates the new town until he meets Julie (Haley Bennett) his attractive next door neighbor. Susan busy with work leaves Dane in charge of his little brother Lucas. As the two explore the house they find a trap door in the basement nailed shut. After opening it the two find a bottomless hole. The two enlist the aid of Julie and the three lower in a camera and flashlight, but run out of rope before the camera can reach the bottom. While reviewing the film they see that it reveals nothing, just blackness until they look away when we see the image of a large eye on the screen that quickly vanishes before they turn their attention back to the screen. The three soon start being visited by apparitions of their personal fears. Lucas is tormented by a clown puppet, Julie is visited by some literal ghosts of her past and Lucas by a large man tie closely to his past. They quickly look up the previous owner of the home Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern) and track him down to his new residence. When they arrive, they learn Carl lives surround by light bulbs never venturing out into the darkness. He is greatly upset at them for opening the hole and unleashing the darkness. As the three children leave Carls light bulbs start going out one by one until he is left in darkness, the last we hear of him is screams. Lucas learns that by confronting your fears is the only way to defeat them. But before Lucas can do so, Dante is taken by the large man into the hole, forcing Lucas to go in after him to save him.
I really enjoyed the creativity in this film. The three main characters fears are all unique to the character as is the method by which they face them. Some are as easy. simply literally fighting them. While others are less violent, but no less hard for the characters to face. Out of these fears Lucas’s is by far the most memorable as the he confronts his inside the hole in a weird dreamscape style world that reminds me heavily of Tim Burton.
The acting from the three main actors are average, but nothing that really stands out after viewing. The best work comes from Bruce Dern, who while a very small role as Creepy Carl. Dern delivers the stand-out role of the film to me with just the right amount of crazy and broken. I wish that his role would have been larger, but I can see how doing so would have really cut into Lucas, Dantes and Julies development. The only arguably bad thing I can say is that this defiantly isn’t his best work, but I wouldn’t expect it to be.
But on the other side of things, the effects besides the clown puppet left more than a little to be desired for me. As does the fact we never learn about Carls fear. We know it comes for him, but we never learn of it. While this is a minor gripe and what we don’t see is often more scary than what we do. With the other inventive fears I would have really liked to see what it was the drove Carl to being the mess is he when we meet him.
So final thoughts, I was very surprised when I first saw this film. With such a simple premise as kids find a hole to hell in their basement, I was really afraid I was walking into a straight rip off of The Gate. But happily I got a very well thought out and often creepy horror film. While none of the acting besides Derns really stood out to me, I wouldn’t call any of it bad. Massogila, Bennett and Gamble all deliver acceptable performances. They’re believable and as I often say what’s even more crucial they’re likeable. Plus the solid directing of Joe Dante really helps this film stand out among its fellows. So The Hole gets a well-earned 7/10.