‘The Hole in the Ground’ Preys on Parental Fears [Review]
A single mother fights for her son and perhaps her sanity in The Hole in the Ground, the feature film debut from writer/director Lee Cronin that explores a parent’s worst nightmare.
Recovering from a not-quite-explained previous trauma that left her physically scarred, Sarah moves to an isolated old house with her young son, Chris. When they discover the titular massive hole within the woods adjacent to their new home, Sarah inexplicably isn’t too phased and just tells Chris “it’s nothing” and to stay away from it, which of course he doesn’t do.
After Chris disappears one night and then soon reappears, the young mom begins to suspect that he is no longer himself, an imposter of some kind. Cronin plays on familiar fears that often plague over-stressed parents, as a child’s mood and behavior can easily jump from one extreme to another.
As Sarah, Seana Kerslake is outstanding in a demanding performance that sees her in pretty much every scene in the movie. Playing Chris, James Quinn Markey is effectively creepy yet vulnerable, as the viewer is urged to question whether the mother is being paranoid or if the child did in fact come back different.
The definitive answer to the mystery comes soon enough to make way for a claustrophobic climax that I definitely didn’t see coming.
Throughout the quick 90-minute run time, the exceptional cinematography and eerie soundtrack keep the atmosphere tight and tense, as we’re sent down the proverbial Hole to an inevitable resolution.
Shot in Ireland, the film’s striking setting looks almost otherworldly in its vast and bare isolation, creating a transportive experience into an unnamed town on the outskirts of what could be almost any country.
Unfortunately, the lone bonus feature included on the DVD as an all too brief (10-minute) featurette with behind the scenes footage and interviews. What happened to feature length director commentaries? Watching Cronin’s interview segments, it’s clear he’s passionate about the project, but I would have loved more insight into where the story came from, beyond it being designed to make parents question their own kids and how their view of them could be slightly warped.
Mining a pit of familiar parental horrors, The Hole intimately envelops the audience in its central mystery before delivering a shocking finale that is sure to leave viewers talking, and debating, long after the credits roll.
The Hole in the Ground is out on DVD on April 30, from Lionsgate. (Order it here.)
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