Director: Joe Dante

A single mother moves to a new town, dragging her two young boys with her. Plucked from the madness of Brooklyn and dropped into a rural upstate town, Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) initially find little to amuse themselves, until chancing across a strange door in the basement of their new house. It's secured, heavily. With their mother Susan (Teri Polo) out making a living, the childrens' inquisitive nature kicks in and the endless locks eventually fly off; the door is opened and underneath? They find a seemingly bottomless pit.

Fifteen minutes are up, and veteran director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Piranha) has already removed the fear of the unknown. Instead, he plays on the concept of open, infinite space; dropping nails into the hole elicits no sound, but it's when the boys lower a camera into the hole that things really get interesting.

That is, until a distraction appears in the form of girl-next-door Julie (Haley Bennett). The Hole walks a fine line between teenage cliche (catering to that 12A rating) and a more sophisticated, sinister concept. For the latter, Mark L. Smith's script borrows extensively from horror-staples, manifesting the horror in an entity that makes your one true fear a reality. It's an intensely personal concept, but is slightly dumbed down for the children. Lucas faces his fear of clowns; for Dane, that of an abusive father who is holed up in prison. Julie's is the darkest of all, guilt.

Chris Massoglia is a bland, passable lead, clearly involved for "teen-heartthrob" potential. Nathan Gamble (The Mist) as his younger brother is an entirely different proposition, showing full well why he is so highly rated as a child actor. It's just as well, as outside the occasional scares the film is mostly character driven, focusing on one single narrative. We stay with the group as they attempt to work out what the hole contains, and what they can do to stop it.

Bruce Dern makes an appearance as Creepy Carl, the previous occupant of the house. His shaken performance as a sewer-rat draws on years of experience playing some of the industries seedier and psychopathic characters.

The film is hurried along with a relatively simple plot, keeping to a brisk running time. Character development suffers, but the story is never allowed to drag. Visually, we are treated to a rarity in old-school stop motion, as well as stunning CGI for the final act once we find out what waits down in the hole. The DVD is devoid of the 3D shots provided in theaters, but it's hardly missed; although the film was filmed with 3D cameras, there are few shots of note. Javier Navarrete (Pan's Labyrinth, Inkheart) makes great use of sound, saving the best of his compositions for 'End Titles', which also pay homage to old-school horror films with a final reel.

Facing your deepest fear is an interesting premise, although perhaps one that would have been better executed if the film were aimed at a more adult audience. The final 30 minutes change the dynamic in taking the film out of its natural environment, and the final sequences in The Hole are ludicrous, Alice-In-Wonderland lite, when they could have been visceral and truly frightening.

Joe Dante's biggest challenge with the Hole was the script and concept, in that this is by no means original. He comes up with a few innovations and a decent cast but it's not enough to float a film and cast that is merely "okay".


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