Arriving to finally rent or buy in the horror section, The Hole In The Ground comes with a growing positive word of mouth that had me licking my lips with anticipation. Was this going to be one of 2019’s most hidden beauties within the genre? In some ways, yes or no! While it offers enough chills to suggest its reputation is warranted, you can not escape the feeling of familiarity that engulfs the film.
Sarah (Seana Kerslake) and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) move away from their previous lives to go and live in the back end of Ireland, a place where a typical horror setting awaits. On arrival they nearly crash into a mystery woman ( Kati Outinen) standing in the road, her face covered, but enough to see her mouth uttering quietly, which starts off a sense of doom and dread that the film to be fair is really good at.
The ominous music which plays just as much a big part of the proceedings as the script, tells us that something is waiting for this family and we soon discover what it is. Away from the remote house in the middle of the deep woods is a huge creepy sink hole that even by looking at it would have any normal person questioning why they bought a house with this in the back garden.
Sarah warns her son to keep away from it, which if he did there would be no film for us to watch, so one night, she awakes to find him gone, goes looking in the woods, can’t find him, phones the police, only to find that Chris has been in the house all this time. Or has he? One of the strengths of the film for the first half of the running time is that it gives the viewer a “is this happening?” scenario”.
When Sarah finds one of Chris’s toys next to the Sink Hole she starts to get convinced that something has happened to her son, that the boy sitting next to her eating a bowl of Spaghetti is someone else. For a while the viewer may begin to believe that its all in her head, that the awful thing that made them move to Ireland has made her unwell. Even when Chris begins to show some Supernatural abilities – the spider and crawl scene is especially good-the film still makes you think that it could be her imagination running wild.
Of course no one believes her. The doctor gives her more pills to take, the teachers in the local school look at her like she is insane, all the while she is having vivid nightmares that her son is doing horrible things to her. To be fair to Kerslake, with director Lee Cronin, refusing to give the audience answers, she has to carry the entire weight of the film on her shoulders. If we don’t believe her, then the film would falter, but she is terrific in the role, playing sympathy and nervousness to a great effect. Only the scar on her forehead, hidden by her hair, is a clue that she suffered an abusive relationship with the boy’s dad and there are moments where you can only sympathise with what is happening. You don’t see much of the horror, but because of Kerslake’s performance, we don’t really need to. When stuff happens, we immediately have sympathy for her and not many horrors can pull that off, so full credit all around.
You can guess by this review that there is a lot of deep meanings within the film. Abusive Relationships, a mother scared to start again, is her son displaying the same anger issues?, this is a lot to fill into a film being portrayed as an horror, but that is the modern trend these days. Unless you count films like Annabelle and The Conjuring, most horrors, especially those not getting released at the Box Office are trying to offer more than cheap scares, but an intelligence towards it. A Hole In The Ground is the right horror for those who want a bit more to proceedings.
Once the film shows its hand though, it loses a bit of its momentum. Familiarity becomes a problem with a seen it all before climax that lacks the much need bite and darkness you desperately needed. Its a tiny bit unfair to offer any criticism because Cronin shows a deft hand behind the camera with some fantastic imagery that you can only marvel at.
Not just happy creating a stunning opening upside down shot, Cronin manages to fill the film with memorable imagery and moments that make this one of horror hidden finds of 2019. The Hole In The Ground does more than enough to climb itself up from its own familiarity Sink Hole and joins a growing list of recent great horrors centered around a Mother and a child, surrounded by a spooky dread and an awaiting evil.
3 Hatchets (and a bit) Out Of 5