February 7, 2019 The Hole in the Ground (Movie Review)
A mother knows her child better than anyone, and a mirror always tells the truth. These two brutal truths conjoin to formulate The Hole in the Ground, a brand-new Horror offering from award-winning Filmmaker Lee Cronin. After making its world premiere in the Midnight section of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, The Hole in the Ground is now available exclusively for a 72-hour rental for DIRECTV customers via DIRECTV Cinema thanks to AT&T and A24.
Young mother Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake: A Date for Mad Mary 2016, Can’t Cope, Won’t Hope series) is starting over in a no-name, rural town in the Irish countryside with her sweet-voiced little son Chris (James Quinn Markey: Vikings series, Mother’s Day TV movie 2018). Before they even arrive to their isolated new digs, a disturbing encounter with a mysterious, robed figure (Kati Outinen: The Man Without a Past 2002, Le Havre 2011) leaves Sarah understandably shaken.
The discomfort and paranoia growing inside of her are in no way helped when, on one of their first evenings inside the home, Chris seems to disappear into thin air. Miraculously, he soon turns up unharmed and his mother is forced to face facts: due to the recent stressors in her life, she just might be losing her mind. However, as time passes in the forested countryside and the evidence of a shift in her son’s personality seems to mount, Sarah will start to wonder if everything that is spiraling around her links back to the ominous sinkhole that she discovered one pitch-black evening in the middle of the dense woods.
Filmed in Ireland, Belgium, and Finland, this film is an artistic work that comes to us thanks to some serious European cooperation. Clocking in at 90 minutes, The Hole in the Ground is a feature-length directorial debut for award-winning Irish Horror Filmmaker Lee Cronin (Ghost Train short 2013, Minutes Past Midnight 2016) and was written by Cronin with Stephen Shields (Zombie Bashers series, Mini Moguls series). It also features James Cosmo (Braveheart 1995, Troy 2004); Simone Kirby (Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016, Notes on Blindness documentary 2016); Steve Wall (Vikings series, My Foolish Heart 2018); Eoin Macken (The Forest 2016, Resident Evil: The Final Chapter 2016); and David Crowley (Ripper Street series, Love, Rosie 2014).
The Hole in the Ground is intriguing, in that, it begins with a palpable intensity and a heavy creep factor that seem to hit their highest peak far too early on, and then steadily plummet when viewers realize, oh boy, this is another imposter child movie. After breathing a defeated sigh, if you can hang in there, there is a shift in the plot that you likely will not see coming and, while it never quite matches its earliest beginnings, it certainly doesn’t fall entirely flat either.
When Chris crawls about the wooden floorboards, the hair on the back of your neck will stand at attention. When his sweet little voice calls for his mother, hell, that’s creepy too. As that mother, Kerslake is stellar in her performance, providing enough subtle nuances early on to allow us to wonder if she is, in fact, simply losing her mind. She never overacts and demeans the production, instead, she tiptoes with little cat feet through a haunting script, perfectly portraying a young mother who has been pushed to the psychological brink but who will never stop fighting for her child.
Again, The Hole in the Ground does some truly impressive things in the name of creepiness. There’s a scene where Kerslake stumbles through the woods in the pitch black of night, only a flashlight to illuminate swatches of the forest. Shot from Sarah’s point of view, every shadow will have you burying yourself further and further into your chair and slowly beginning to shield your eyes from the oncoming horror. Thus, it’s a bit unfortunate that all of this builds us into the tale of a boy who is no longer himself. It’s been done ad nauseum and it continues to be done (The Prodigy, anyone?), but it would be unfair to say that The Hole in the Ground doesn’t do it well enough to at least be enjoyable.
An overall exceptional feature-length debut for Cronin, The Hole in the Ground cements that there is a very bright, likely horrifying future ahead for this talented filmmaker. Yet another reminder that the Irish do it better, Cryptic Rock give The Hole in the Ground 4 of 5 stars.