Director: Joe Dante
Cast: Chris Massoglia, Nathan Gamble, Hayley Bennett, Teri Polo
Watch The Hole online in the UK: Shudder UK / iTunes / Amazon Instant Video / TalkTalk TV Store / Google Play
Ever sat through Hostel or one of the Saw movies and wished you could take your kid with you? Well, now you depraved excuses for parents can rejoice, because Joe Dante has returned from the 80s to give everyone a scare. There’s no torture porn in sight, but The Hole is a disturbing little number. Which ain’t bad for a 12 certificate. (That’s the same certificate as Zac Efron romantic drama Charlie St. Cloud, in case you’re wondering.)
Things are stressful in the Thompson household. Repeatedly uprooted and moved across country by mummy Dr. Susan (Polo), Dane (Massoglia) and little brother Lucas (Gamble) are sick of never settling down. But their desire to stay in one place doubles when they meet cute girl-next-door Julie (Bennett). That and the massive gaping hole in their basement.
They discover the seemingly bottomless pit when exploring their new house. Unlocking the trapdoor (big mistake), they unwittingly let loose a string of spooky figures and apparitions. Stalking around in juddery stop-motion, Joe Dante’s bag of tricks is scary for small children and just as unsettling for adults. When it starts preying on Lucas’ dislike of clowns, the kids soon realise that The Hole is bringing to life their greatest fears.
The basic concept of Dante’s movie is an old chestnut of the genre, but there’s a reason why such a simple device works. And the Gremlins director knows how to turn things dark without losing that likeable appeal to youngsters.
His old-school approach gains little from the 3D visuals the film boasted when it first hit cinemas (there’s a groan-inducing use of a baseball early on), but the storytelling doesn’t suffer. Strong performances from the leads keep things tense and affecting, especially in the first half – the young’uns effectively eclipse Teri Polo’s almost incidental part – while Bruce Dern even tops the woman of the house with his hammy cameo, all wild hair and crazed ramblings.
The film only threatens to fall apart towards the end, with a fight that borders on laughable, but Mark Smith’s screenplay contrasts it well with some sound emotional catharsis. The climax also dictates a confrontation between Dane and the never-ending abyss. Showcasing CGI and fantastical set design, the Gilliam-esque world through the trapdoor can’t match your own imaginary fears, but Dante’s darkness reveals a surprisingly black back-story. It’s a brave topic to include in a family film, and it makes this gentle horror all the more frightening. It’s almost as terrifying as Charlie St Cloud.
The Hole is available to stream online on SHUDDER UK, as part of a £4.99 monthly subscription, or £49.99 yearly membership.
Where can I watch The Hole on pay-per-view VOD?
For more on Shudder UK, including reviews of films available now, previews of what’s coming soon and an interview with Dearest Sister director Mattie Do, see VODzilla.co’s Shudder UK channel.