The Hole, 2009.
Directed by Joe Dante.
Starring Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo and Bruce Dern.
Two brothers discover a mysterious hole in the basement of their new home that forces them to confront their darkest fears.
In the vein of 80’s kids horrors such as Gremlins, The Hole (from Gremlins helmer himself, Joe Dante) embraces some old fashioned sensibilities, combined with the new fangled 3D obsession (though of course there was brief surge in 3D, during the 80’s) to deliver something that feels a bit old school. It’s not flashy, and it’s not edited within an inch of its life in a hyperactive blur of sugar rushed avid carnage. Its target audience are young, but are at least given the credit to have to concentrate for the films duration. Not that the plot is anything particularly taxing, or indeed remotely original.
Brothers Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) move into their new home. Moving is something of a regular occurrence, as single mother Susan (Teri Polo) tries to keep her children as well hidden from their abusive and imprisoned father as possible. Anytime he gets wind of their location, she moves them on. Dane resents the constant moving, and is your typical late teen, grumpy male. Its cardboard cut-out characters all the way here in all honesty. All carefully snipped from the big book of character clichés! The film takes little time in introducing us to the hole itself. The boys find it in their basement, and their attractive young female neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett), who Dane fancies the pants off of course, also gets involved. The hole appears bottomless, but as the film progresses, it appears that it’s not nothingness in there, and something (or some things) escape the hole. Okay, so it’s no surprise really, but as it transpires, the hole brings forth the deepest fears for those who have looked inside it. In Lucas case it’s a fear of clowns (I don’t blame him, have you seen IT!?) and in Haley’s case it’s a repressed guilt over the death of a childhood friend. So in some sense the film mirrors Flatliners, just without the flat-lining… or Keifer Sutherland (or Kevin Bacon’s hair, sadly!). More dramatically, and more prominently, Dane, who spends the first two thirds of the film claiming he’s not scared of anything, is confronted by a nightmarish version of his father, who snatches Lucas and takes him into the hole. Dane must confront his fears head on to save his brother.
So the plot is relatively simple, but to the film’s credit, it doesn’t spend too much needless running time on establishing the new area, or needless character points for the boys. We get to the business of the hole pretty quickly. Negatively though, the film doesn’t have enough material in any case, to sustain its run-time. In truth, before the finale, not a lot actually happens. The finale itself seems like an afterthought that serves little more purpose than to make the most out of the 3D part (though to be noted, I saw the 2D version, so cannot vouch for the standard of said 3D). But there’s plenty of impressive CGI that comes to the fore, having until that point, been predominantly a film reliant on atmosphere and practical effects.
The cast aren’t too bad but not good enough to elevate proceedings. Massoglia hasn’t been hired for his acting ability it must be said. He’s tween girl eye candy and not much else. To everyone else he’s pretty wooden and lacking in leading man presence. Not that I’m a fan by any means, but Zac Efron for example, has some charisma and a bit of star power. Massoglia is unfortunately a cheap imitation, and in some regards, a stronger lead could have carried this film better. Gamble and Bennett as brother and love interest respectively, are both okay. Elsewhere, Teri Polo delivers a standard single mum performance, straight from the textbook pages. Bruce Dern appears briefly in a typical crazy eyed, Bruce Dern performance, but it’s all too brief, and additionally, you kind of sense they probably couldn’t get Christopher Lloyd and settled for the numero 2 crazy eyed, mad bastard 80‘s guy.
Technically this is all well made. Joe Dante knows this type of genre inside out. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously either, which is good. Nor as mentioned earlier, does it resort to seizure inducing editing. Unlike a lot of 3D films it’s not lazy. Dante and company have remembered that there needs to be a decent film behind all the 3D pizzazz. It feels like there’s been an effort made, even though it doesn’t particularly deliver.
Overall, The Hole is a serviceable film that will, at least to fans of 80’s classics, invoke memories of superior movies. There may be added enjoyment seeing this film in 3D on the big screen, though this appears to have slipped under the radar somewhat, and is still awaiting its North American release as of Jan 2011. But needless to say, there have been far worse films aimed at the targeted audience, and under Dante’s control, the film never becomes tiresome, or irksome.
Movie Review Archive
The Hole is released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 17th.