Dir; Lee Cronin. Starring; Seana Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Katy Outinen. R. Color. 90 min.
In my experience the only good horror films are focused more on atmosphere than shock value, which is why most horror films are lazy. Irish director Lee Cronin‘s “The Hole in the Ground”, his latest low budget slow burn of a creep fest, is an intriguing ride. In no ways original, it is well crafted with layered undertones of paranoia and a mothers dread of making the wrong decisions.
We open with a child looking into a contortionist style mirror in a fun house during the unnamed town’s county fair. His young mother Sarah O’Neill (relative unknown Seana Kerslake) watches the visual representation of the boy she knows and the boy she does not recognize.
While returning to their new home in the woods Sarah and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) nearly get into a serious accident when a crazed old woman is standing in the middle of the street staring at them. When Sarah approaches her the woman says nothing. The ominous feeling of unsettlement begins.
Sarah and her son are running from the past. While not explicitly said, it appears Sarah was in an abusive relationship with a rich man who she was able to extract some amount of money from and is now hiding in a small town in hopes of keeping her son safe. She loves him and lives in a constant fear for his safety. Things start off rocky with Chris entering a new school and Sarah working at a local shop to keep busy. One night/early morning Sarah awakens and her son has disappeared. Delirious, she rushes to the woods searching before stumbling upon a, well yes, a giant hole in the ground.
Just as she is on the phone with the police, Chris suddenly turns up. Something has changed. The formerly depressed over missing his father and hating school child has turned into a model citizen. While coming home one afternoon the crazy old woman from earlier stops them once again. Revealed to be one Noreen Brady (legendary European actress Kati Outinen, look her up), people in town have talked about how she went crazy after a tragic “accident” that took her son’s life. Brady attacks the O’Neill’s car yelling that the Chris we see is not her real son. Brady’s husband Des (James Cosmos from Game of Thrones fame) runs out to calm the woman down.
The unsettling series of events is building for Sarah when crazy old Noreen is found dead with her head buried in the dirt and also when returning to the hole she finds her sons most beloved action figure stuffed in the dirt. Chris is getting hostile at home. Reality is becoming blurred for Sarah, who’s doctor is concerned that she isn’t taking her “medication”.
The final act is admittedly underwhelming and predictable. But so are all horror films. We know what is actually going on within twenty minutes so the reveal has a bit of a “meh” feel to it. Spoiler alert, have you ever seen “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”? That does not take away from the extraordinary atmospheric feeling that this film presents.
“The Hole in the Ground” is much more about mental state than the cookie cutter story that it is. A broken woman questioning if she is going insane when she sees her sons face after having gone through a horrible situation. Finding a balance between smothering and protecting your child. Cinematographer Tom Comerford uses subtle camera movements and angles to somehow make the prison of the mind visual.
There have been better recent low budget horror films about family dynamics. “Hereditary” and “It Comes at Night” are two great examples. That does not change the fact that “The Hole in the Ground” is a fascinating view from a distance of how ones mind works as a young mother disguised as a midnight chiller.
Suck Factor: 2out of 7 (7 means your movie really SUCKS!)
Written by Byrd
The SUCK FACTOR, how it works. We have flipped the rating system upside down. If a film is classic, it gets a 0. Meaning that movie has 0 SUCKS. If a film is complete trash you must avoid at all costs, it gets a 7, meaning this movie really SUCKS!