26 September 2010

Movie Review: The Hole 3D (2010)



C+

The Hole
2009, 90mins, 12
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Mark L. Smith
Cast includes: Nathan Gamble, Chris Massoglia, Teri Polo, Haley Bennett, Bruce Dern, Dick Miller
UK Release Date: 22nd September 2010

Coming from the director of “Gremlins” and “Small Soldiers”, “The Hole” should by rights be a delightful concoction, the picture’s fertile premise only further powering such hefty expectations. In reality the film is a mildly diverting ride that just about stays afloat for its brief 90 minute runtime, certainly no more than a vaguely pleasurable but eminently forgettable time at the multiplex. This film marks Joe Dante’s first directorial effort in seven years (his last was 2003’s poorly received “Looney Tunes: Back in Action”) and it would appear the break has rusted his filmmaking antenna, “The Hole” showcasing occasional moments of “Gremlins” style genius, but more often than not apparently content to pander toward more conventional genre tastes.

Having been hauled halfway across the country by their single mother Susan (Teri Polo), brothers Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and Dane (Chris Massoglia) are left disaffected with the small town they find themselves in. In a bid to fight away boredom they introduce themselves to pretty girl next door Julie (Haley Bennett), and proceed to explore their new home. In the basement the trio locate a trapdoor, which when opened exposes a hole of insurmountable depth. Initially writing it off as an odd curiosity, the group are quickly plagued by visions of fear, each speedily deducing that the hole might hold supernatural powers. As things go from bad to worse they decide to track down the previous owner of the demonic opening and thus figure out how to halt its terrifying contents, but as time progresses it quickly appears that the hole may be capable of unleashing serious harm on all those who stare into it.

“The Hole” certainly boasts a scarier momentum than most family fare, Joe Dante racking up a credible roster of intense (yet kiddie friendly) sequences that disturb more than much of the recent torture porn nonsense. “The Hole” offers several individual scenes that are very effective and which deploy 3-D rather skilfully, a moment involving a blacked out restroom and the surprisingly intense finale are the obvious highlights. As an introduction to the joys of frightening cinema “The Hole” isn’t a bad little dish, children will likely respond well to its blend of spooky visuals and bloodless jump scares. More seasoned horror buffs (or even youngsters privileged enough to have enjoyed exposure to Dante’s earlier works) won’t be overly perturbed by what’s on show here, but for the uninitiated it’s an amply atmospheric and frantic example of satisfactorily unsettling filmmaking.

The central narrative is uninspired and generic, the restless family dynamic, small town setting and evil external force combination having already been worked in films like “Jumanji” and indeed Dante’s own “Gremlins”. The film throws up a few subplots to help try and spice proceedings up but they’re an inconsistent bunch. One involving harrowing domestic abuse is surprisingly potent and sensitively handled by Dante, but the segment pertaining to Julie’s fears is lifeless and feels like an afterthought. “The Hole” operates almost like an age appropriate version of Stephen King’s “IT”, albeit in losing much of the dark and edgy subtext that rendered that story so readable, “The Hole” just feels somewhat uninventive and every so often downright dull.

The acting from Massoglia and Bennett is average at best, but the younger Gamble manages to tread the line between naive likability and downright irritability rather wonderfully. It’s an assured and cute performance which allows the actor to steal the show from his more seasoned co-stars. The 3-D effects are competent and unobtrusive, but not vital to the overall experience (viewers opting for the 2-D version won’t be missing too much). “The Hole” is a so-so feature peppered with a few exceptional attributes, perfectly watchable but not essential viewing unless you happen to be an easily shaken 12 Year -Old. If you fit into that demographic it’s probably a complete blast.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010

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