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The Hole in the Ground (2019)
DVD Released: 4/30/2019
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/24/2019
Are kids scary? They can certainly be a handful and annoying at times, but are they truly frightening? That’s uncertain, but horror movies certainly want us to think so. From The Bad Seed to The Omen to The Children (1980) (one of my favorite movies) to The Children (2008), there is a long history of films which portray children as sinister. However, given that most children could easily be picked up and carried away, making them frightening can be a challenge. But, that doesn’t stop filmmakers from giving it a proper try. And thus we find ourselves with the new release, The Hole in the Ground.
Sarah (Seana Kerslake) has moved to the countryside with her young son, Chris (James Quinn Markey). She takes a job at a curio shop in the nearby town, while also working to remodel the old house which she and Chris now inhabit. While exploring the woods behind the house, Sarah discovers a gigantic crater. She also meets her neighbors, Noreen (Kati Outinen) and Des (James Cosmo). Noreen acts very strangely and Sarah learns that she once had a son who died under mysterious circumstances. As Sarah attempts to make the best of her new life, she begins to notice that Chris has become distant. Is he having a negative reaction to the move and his new school or is something else going on?
The Hole in the Ground marks the feature film debut for Director Lee Cronin, who also Co-Wrote the film with Stephen Shields, and it certainly shows both promise and some rookie mistakes. This Ireland-lensed film is awash with creepy atmosphere, as Sarah’s new house is truly isolated and just shabby enough to give it a gothic feel. There is a distinct sense of mystery and the slow-burn angle works well in the film’s first-half. Kerslake does a fantastic job of playing the anxious, haunted mom and the Markey is equally notable, giving a performance beyond his years, as a child who is very cold at times.
As noted above, The Hole in the Ground is a definite slow-burn and Cronin doles out a few clues as to what is happening in the film’s first half. But, once the story begins to coalesce in the second part of the movie, things begin to fall apart. Part of this has to do with logic. As we all know, horror movies are full of characters who have done stupid things and these kind of things often happen in less-than-good movies. In artsy horror films such as The Hole in the Ground, we see less of this sort of occurrence. However, Sarah does something incredibly odd and basically inexplicable when she doesn’t ask anyone about the crater. Following the discovery of the giant hole, we see her interacting with her boss and Des and she never says anything like, “Hey, did a meteor hit near here or something?” I began to wonder if the hole was even real to begin with. But, during the finale, we learn that the hole is indeed real and we also get somewhat of an explanation as to what is happening to Sarah and Chris…and it’s not satisfying. Cronin has made the decision to show us something, but doesn’t explain it and it makes things feel very incomplete. The film’s Twilight Zone-esque coda also doesn’t help.
There’s a tradition of Great Britain and Ireland producing cold, brooding horror movies and The Hole in the Ground certainly fits that mold. The movie gets the atmosphere right, and the sense of isolation and doom works quite well. But, in the end, the script falls apart, leaving the viewer wanting more. If Cronin can write or get a hold of a more complete story, he could certainly be a director to watch for in the future.
The Hole in the Ground also never explains how/why Sarah chose that house on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good, most notably the constant greens, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, although when compared to the quality seen on Blu-ray Disc, it comes off as a bit soft. The depth works well, most notably with the shots in the forest. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which offers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects work quite well here, as we get sounds coming from all around us both the house and in the forest. Some key moments provide notable subwoofer. The rear channel effects are good, but we don’t get as many distinct sounds as we would on a lossless track.
The lone extra feature on The Hole in the Ground DVD is a making-of featurette. “Inside The Hole in the Ground” (13 minutes) takes us on-set to see the actors at work. Writer/Director Lee Cronin discusses the story and themes of the film, while also talking about his approach to the material. We also hear from Kerslake (who is covered in blood during her interviews) and some of the other actors. The piece also offers some audition footage and a look at some stunts.
Review Copyright 2019 by Mike Long