Director – Joe Dante
Cast – Chris Massoglia, Nathan Gamble, Haley Bennett, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Quinn Lord, John DeSantis
Release Year – 2009
Reviewed by John of the Dead
The Hole is a film I was really looking forward to catching given this is horror veteran Joe Dante’s first outright horror directing effort since his 1990 film Gremlins 2: The New Batch. I was really curious to see what Joe Dante could do with modern day filmmaking technology, as well whether he could still deliver some good horror. Well, complimented with a good story from Mark L. Smith that I really enjoyed I must say that Joe Dante gave us a winner that comes with his usual knack for fun and positive horror.
When brothers Dane and Lucas move with their mom into a new home after many recent moves over the years, they expect the usual experience of having to make new friends and readjust to a new life. However, this new home is like no other when the brothers discover a mysterious padlocked door in the middle of their basement. After opening the door they discover what seems to be a never-ending hole of constant darkness, which soon brings their deepest and darkest nightmares to life.
Writer Mark L. Smith(Vacancy) gave me a story that I had high expectations to enjoy, and that is exactly what happened, I enjoyed it. I love storylines that involve people moving into a new home and taking on the horrors of the home. The idea is not a new one, but it works for me every time and keeps me engaged given I can put myself in their shoes and imagine how darn scary it would be to move into a home you are unfamiliar with and then come across horror in whatever form. The story takes off quick and gives us “the hole” fairly early on, and constant developments kept my attention throughout the 92 minute runtime. I loved the developmental usage of the hole, which involved Dane, Lucas, and neighbor Julie carrying out different experiments to determine what exactly the hold “is”. It comes off never-ending, and refuses to give back what they throw into it, however things get really interesting when they drop a video camera into it and stupidly ignore the footage. Little do they know, the moment the opened the door to the hole they unleashed an unrelenting evil, and it does not take long before the evil manifests itself. Once the second act kicks in the horror continues with the evil taking the form of a clown, something that I never expected to see but heavily enjoyed given my love for anything related to evil clowns. Soon enough we learn that the evil in the hole basically manifests your deepest fears into real life horror, which is not an original idea but one that we do not see too often, and it worked well for this film. While the majority of the film takes place inside the home we are given quite a few awesome twists and turns, and plenty of development as well that never stops keeping things fresh. I applaud Mark L. Smith for this, as it takes a good writing effort to keep things fresh in a simple story, and he did just that. The third act was far from what I expected, but that does mean that I did not enjoy it. In a sense it reminded me of the third act of Insidious, which involved the protagonist heading into an alternate dimension to settle the score, and while it came off a bit silly in this film it was original in its own right, and I give it credibility for that. Not many character are brought into the film, with Dane, Lucas, and Julie carrying most of the protagonist work and the mom and a few other supporting characters adding to the story, and I found none of them to be useless, which is always a good thing. Some may complain that at times the subject material will come off as childish, and that claim does have merit. Much like Fear of the Dark and The Gate, this PG-13 watch carries the feel as if it were aimed at children, but as with the previously mentioned films I did not mind that one bit as it helped me place myself in the mindset I had as a child. Needless to say, despite this somewhat childish feel the horror provided was pretty darn good.
Joe Dante(Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins, Twilight Zone: The Movie) did a great job setting this film up to be as good as it was, and he did so first and foremost with great atmosphere. The home used in the film was great, and provided a nice contrast given it was in a suburban neighborhood yet contained a dark presence unavailable to the outside eye. The set for the basement was fantastic, and Dante made excellent use of low lighting and dark atmosphere to provide some good horror, especially the genius usage of the clown. I loved that most of the clown footage was live-action, with only impossible scenes coming in CGI form. The rest of the horror was also well-executed, although I was iffy at times about the quality of the horror. At times I felt like “OK, this is where the film is going to screw up” when things would get a bit silly, but Joe Dante always managed to save things with great execution that resulted in good horror. This was especially the case with the final act, which included the somewhat silly final sequences inside the hole. I felt like this was where the film was going to lose it, but despite some of the sillyness the horror would take over and left me satisfied in the end.
Overall, The Hole is a great watch and a sweet return to the genre from horror veteran Joe Dante. The story gives us a simple yet unique idea that comes with great horror, and Dante’s execution of the horror is superb and kept this sometimes silly film on the positive side and made for an enjoyable horror experience. Recommended for fans of Dante and those looking for a simple and enjoyable horror effort.