Remember the Joe Dante days when he delivered movies like GREMLINS? Or hell, even something like SMALL SOLDIERS I can still get a kick out of. It’s been years since I first heard about THE HOLE when it screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and read a few very promising things about it so imagine my disappointment when it disappeared for a while then my excitement when it finally got pushed out unceremoniously on DVD. As far as Direct to DVD flicks go THE HOLE isn’t the bottom of the barrel, but this isn’t the film as a whole is not the return of Joe Dante I would have liked to see.
The film follows a mom and her two sons moving into a new house to escape an abusive husband/father. The sons befriend their attractive neighbor just as they discover a mysterious hole in their basement covered by a door with numerous locks. Naturally, curiosity gets the best of them and they open the door and discover that there seems to be endless amounts of darkness and no visible floor. Shortly after the door opens their worst fears begin to manifest in reality forcing them to face those very same fears.
The most disheartening thing about this film for me is that it has no energy whatsoever. The characters have zero sense of urgency especially when it is clear that jacked up shit is going down and the kids just ho hum around as if it’s just another day. I mean come on, the first time a creepy ass jester puppet starts hurling glass jars at my head and clicking its teeth at me I’d get the hell outta dodge. Here though a brush with death illicit little but a, “Oh, well that was weird…hey let’s go swimming,” type of response. Part of it is the lackluster script, but also the uninspired and lazy performances.
Visually there are a lot pretty cool things to enjoy- the effect of the hole has some cool tricks especially towards the end when it’s time to see what’s actually down there. The aforementioned jester puppet is hands down my favorite thing in this whole flick- the introduction is brief and I was really hoping for more and then naturally it rears its ugly ass head again and it really sent chills up my spine. On the downside, the cinematography here kind of makes a majority of the film look like a made for TV movie- something I’m not sure if I should attribute to the fact that this was originally filmed for 3D so maybe the brightness was to offset the tint of the glasses. Way too much of the film takes place in broad daylight and even some of the night scenes look as if they take place in the middle of the day. Yet there continue to be some pretty cool scenes- specifically one involving a room full of lights that explode one by one until total darkness. It’s the inconsistencies that make THE HOLE so frustrating to watch.
A couple of familiar faces here, the biggest being Teri Polo who most will recognize from the MEET THE PARENTS series- here delivering generic parent dialogue and terribly hackneyed jokes. Nathan Gamble plays the younger of the two brothers and has a few pretty great freaked out moments, but again his performance suffers from a generic script. The other two leads Chris Massoglia, who I thought was Walt Jr. from breaking bad for most of the film and Haley Bennett both seem as if they are sleepwalking through a lot of the film- plenty of robotic movements and overall just appearing unsure about why they were in this film.
There are moments of THE HOLE that gave me the heebie jeebies and others that I was audibly groaning at the ridiculousness of some combination of the film’s half baked aspects. There are small moments in this film I would easily watch again, but I would do so for those moments alone as I really don’t think I could ever watch this film from beginning to end ever again. I would really hate to dismiss the film given the quality of the things I really love about it, so while I would hardly call THE HOLE an abyss of entertainment, it is at the very least lacking a passionate spark in the heart of the film that would propel it to the point of being even a cult hit.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)