The Hole is a horror flick directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins) and first released in 2009. It's not to be confused with another movie of the same title which was released in 2001. Why two different studios decided to go with the same, immature guffaw inducing title for their films, which were released within a decade of each other, I do not know. Then again, I'm not sure what other title would suit Joe Dante's movie any better and at least the characters in this one make some of the same jokes at its expense that any gutterminded viewer at home is apt to.This film is rated PG-13, a fact that may have dissuaded me from watching it if I had noticed it before I brought it home. In retrospect, I'm glad I made the overght. The Hole is a fun, effective and surpringly thoughtful throwback to kid-centric films of days past, such as E.T. or the aforementioned Gremlins . It invokes many of the same nostalgic feelings as the recent Super 8, although it has moments that are creepier and funnier than anything in that film and features a far more original ending. It also features a few pretty gory visuals, which I wasn't expecting based on its rating.
At the film's opening, we meet the Thompson family, comprised of the teenage Dane (Chris Massoglia), his pesky little brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) and their mother, Susan (Teri Polo). The Thompsons are buly moving their belongings into their new home in a small town called Bensonville. It soon becomes clear that this is only the most recent in a string of sudden moves. For a while, the movie invites us to wonder why they move so often, although we can reasonably assume that it has something to do with Lucas and Dane's absent father. Of course, movies being movies, Dane notices Julie (Haley Bennett), the cute girl who lives next door, almost immediately, and exchanges meaningful glances with her well before the boxes are even unpacked. Dane is too shy to approach Julie, so Lucas makes introductions first, in an effort to embarrass his older brother. This results in a shoving match between the brothers which ends only when they accidentally knock over a shelf in their new basement. Beneath the shelf, they discover a heavily padlocked door in the floor. They manage to locate the keys to the locks, and Julie pops in just in time to peer into the vast darkness that lies beyond the door, and to bear witness when a paint can dropped into the hole to judge its depth apparently never hits bottom.Soon after, spooky mischief begins breaking out wherever these three characters go. The bloodied and limping ghost of a little girl is caught prowling around. A small, garrish looking clown doll begins moving around by its lonesome and terrorizing Lucas, who incidentally has always been afraid of clowns. And something from Dane's past that he lives in constant fear of seems to be repeating itself yet again. If all of this seems like a disconnected jumble, that's because it's supposed to, at first. We eventually realize that the hole in the basement is spewing out manifestations of the worst fears of our respective protagonists. This angle is something that has been done before in horror movies, to be sure, but The Hole's lively script from Mark L. Smith keeps the proceedings relatively fresh and features several caveats that put a different spin on the idea. For one thing, every ngle character can see the manifestations of the fears of the other characters, which creates the feeling that they are all in the same amount of potential danger. What ultimately makes this film a real standout, however, is the unexpectedly stylized ending, which drips with artistic senbility and features an elaborate, otherworldly set that would make Tim Burton green with envy. I don't want to give too much away about this jawdropper of a finish, but it involves Dane confronting a skewed veron of his own dark past in a world where the contours of every room and piece of furniture have been warped by the traumas he suffered as a child. It's genuinely deep stuff for a film that is such pure fun for most of its run time.The Hole is an absolute blast, but it does have its weak points. While Dane, Julie and Lucas are all likable and well developed, Susan is largely regulated to the stereotypical horror movie parent role, not asking as many questions as she should about what her boys are up to and leaving them alone in the house at every opportunity. She has one or two scenes which fill her character in a little bit, but it would have been nice to see her become involved in the action of the plot in a more substantive way somewhere along the line. Additionally, while most of the special effects are well rendered, the tiny clown doll looks a bit ridiculous attacking young Lucas, who is a giant by comparison. It's painfully obvious that the boy could obliterate the little bugger utterly from the face of the planet without breaking a sweat, but the fact that he's young enough to be ealy alarmed and has a predetermined fear of such things keeps it from being a major drain on the overall effectiveness of the movie.This is a film that, while offering some creepy visuals, isn't going to give you nightmares and would not normally be able to scare the vast majority of adults in the slightest. The trick to the movie's success, as with other films in the same vein, is that it skillfully takes you back to the mindset of a child, and does so in such smart, playful fashion that you gladly go along for the journey. Your adult self happily takes a seat in the back and lets the whimcal kid in you slide into the driver's seat.The Hole is certainly more fun than scary, but it goes to surpring places and gives each of its three main protagonists a satisfying narrative arc. It accomplishes everything it sets out to by a country mile and it just might remind you how much you've missed this kind of movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.