The Hole, Or What Heppens When The Abyss Stares Back.

The Hole (2009)

I stumbled across this film on Netflix. Initially, it looked dumb, and I was going to skip it until I saw that it had been directed by Joe Dante. I’m a fan of Mr. Dante’s work, and hadn’t seen anything new by him in years, so I figured I’d take a chance on “The Hole”

The story begins with the Thompson family moving from Brooklyn to small town Bensenville. This move is one of many, and older brother Dane is not particularly happy about being relocated again. His mother tries to reach out to him, but it’s obvious that this is not a new problem. Younger brother Lucas seems happier, or at least more resigned to the move, and while the brothers clash early on, it’s obvious that they share a close bond.

Two things occur quickly – the brothers meet the cute next-door neighbor girl, Julie, and they discover a super creepy wooden trap door in their basement, which is securely locked with multiple padlocks (always a good sign).

Despite the sinister-looking trap door in an otherwise nice and normal looking home, the Thompson brothers manage to get it open. They discover a seemingly bottomless hole that light doesn’t seem to penetrate. After lowering a video camera on a line, they see…something.  Julie helpfully informs them that an old weirdo nicknamed “Creepy Carl” used to live in the house. They attempt to secure the trap door, but it’s pretty obvious that something or things will soon be crawling out of it to wreak havoc on our young protagonists.

The powers of Darkness, or some reasonable stand-ins, do indeed crawl out to wreak said havoc. In short order both Lucas and Julie encounter scary beasties – Julie meeting a spooky little girl (obviously some sort of ghost) and Lucas being attacked by a sinister jester doll.

We soon discover that these are the manifested fears of both kids come to life. A visit to Creepy Carl is in order. He has taken up residence at an abandoned factory, where he has one room that is lit by hundreds of light bulbs. The guy clearly doesn’t like the dark. Old Carl (played by Joe Dante regular Bruce Dern) immediately loses his shit when the kids tell him about opening his trap door (Bensenville must have very loose house inspection policies, for that to have not been discovered before the home sold). Carl starts screaming about “The Darkness,” and how it’s going to come kill all of them.

The kids beat a quick retreat, and a short time later the Darkness does pay Carl a visit. We don’t see what comes for him or what happens, but we can assume it’s a terminal case of “Bad Shit.” Regardless, it’s the last we ever see of Carl.

The kids piece together a theory that the ancient evil contained within “The Hole”  brings the fears of anyone that stares into it to life. It’s apparently a literal version of staring into the Abyss long enough for it to stare back at you…or something vaguely Nietzschean in nature.

While Lucas and Julie manage to defeat and dispel their living fearbeasts, we are left to wonder when Dane’s will make an appearance. When it does, the reasons for the Thompson family’s multiple moves is revealed, and there is a showdown within the endless nightmare world contained within the Hole.

I’ll leave it at that.

So how is “The Hole” over all? It’s not a perfect film, but I enjoyed it for the most part. Joe Dante is a great director, and he establishes mood and atmosphere very well. The central kid characters are portrayed very well by the actors playing them, and it was refreshing to see a film where the teen and preteen characters seemed like they could be real people – not too movie-star attractive or unnatural in some way. They have believable interactions and relationships with one another. It was also a treat to see Dante regulars like Bruce Dern and Dick Miller (in a cameo as the pizza delivery guy). So there are some good things happening in this film.

On the other hand, the story is pretty simple. I like the concept, and simple can work fine when handled well (consider a movie like “Suspiria” for an example) but none of the scares are particularly scary. There’s a pretty nice set piece involving a swimming pool, and I like the fact that the scene takes place in bright daylight and is still effective, but genuine scares are pretty scarce in this film.

The ending confrontation was OK, but also a bit of a let down. I just expected a bigger “Big Bad” or something. None of the other creeps from The Hole were any better.  The ghost girl had an interesting back story, but just wasn’t very scary, and the evil jester doll…how many times are we expected to be scared of an evil doll? We’ve all seen that handled in a more sinister manner than it is in “The Hole.”  

So it’s a mixed bag. You get realistic and like able main characters, some appearances by cult favorite actors, and a slightly new take on the old “Our worst fears come to life” plot device, so “The Hole” struck me as a fun enough way to spend an hour and a half. If I handed out “stars,” I’d give it 6 out of 10. Add another if you tend to like Joe Dante’s movies. I didn’t pay attention to the rating this had, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was PG13. There’s no really strong or violent content, certainly no nudity, and I didn’t even notice much cursing. I might have just phased out any profanity, as I have a potty mouth, and barely notice that stuff anymore.

If you like well-made films with some creepy content, and aren’t put off by a horror film that’s not really scary or violent, then “The Hole” might be right up your alley.Image

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