The Hole in the Ground, 2019.
Directed by Lee Cronin.
Starring Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Kati Outinen, David Crowley, James Cosmo, and Simone Kirby.
A single mother and her young son move to a rural area of Ireland but a huge hole in the ground near their home appears to be having some sort of effect on them.
Dark forests, spooky children and Irish folklore combine in The Hole in the Ground, the debut feature from director Lee Cronin, proving that horror movies about dark forests, spooky children and regional folklore aren’t quite done yet, despite there being a slew of them in recent years.
Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake – A Date For Mad Mary) and her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey) have recently moved into their new home in a quiet part of rural Ireland. Whilst out in the woods next to the house Sarah comes across a huge hole in the ground (do you see?) but thinks nothing of it until one night Chris isn’t in his bed when he should be. Sarah goes looking for him in the woods but finds nothing, only for him to emerge from his room when she gets back, and after that things go a little awry for the O’Neill’s as the local mad woman, who killed her own son many years before, accuses Chris of not being Sarah’s real son, and then things get really weird…
Anyone going into The Hole in the Ground expecting a creepy child film in the same mould as The Omen or even a Chucky-style slasher is going to be very disappointed as this movie is not action-packed and could very comfortably be described as a slow-burner. At a running time of only 86 minutes that is no bad thing as Lee Cronin sets up a wonderfully raw atmosphere that offers up little hope once you realise that Sarah just might not be imagining that the boy in her house may not be her son.
Seána Kerslake gives a very earnest performance as Sarah and you can feel the conflict when she has to decide what to do with ‘Chris’ – something that no parent should ever have to contemplate – and if the film had nothing else to offer then Kerslake’s central performance is definitely worth mentioning. James Quinn Markey also goes against the type of creepy kid actors by not being annoying, his calm and matter-of-fact delivery proving to be very effective, especially when Sarah tries to find out if the boy in her house really is her son or not by playing their face-pulling game that only Chris would know.
What does let The Hole in the Ground down, though, is that it doesn’t really do anything story-wise that we haven’t seen before, and whilst watching the film you can easily think of a handful of other horror movies where you have seen or heard similar beats before – The Babadook, The Descent and Changeling to name three obvious ones. There are underlying themes of children adapting to new surroundings and the familiar suddenly becoming unfamiliar but this is nothing new and the writing isn’t strong enough to offer up a fresh take on what we have seen before, and when the eeriness starts to evolve into something more tangible and the film picks up the pace it’s over, with an ending that fits but doesn’t hit with any great force.
With support from the ever-reliable James Cosmo (Trainspotting), The Hole in the Ground delivers a chilly atmosphere and showcases some talent to look out for in the future in Seána Kerslake and Lee Cronin, but as a complete piece of work it just doesn’t do enough to deviate from anything we have seen in folk horror during the past decade. Worth a rental for a fix of creeping dread with little depth, if such a thing is your wont.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★