Director: Joe Dante
Writers: Mark L. Smith
Principal cast: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern and Dick Miller
Release date: 22nd September 2010
Doctor and single mom Susan (Polo) arrives in small town America with her two sons, teenager Dane (Massoglia) and traumatised younger brother Lucas (Gamble). Upon acquiring an apparently normal house in everyday suburbia, the boys are left to their own devices during the day and friendship blossoms between Dane and girl next door (Bennett).
Upon the discovery of a trap door within the basement of the new house which reveals a seemingly bottomless pit, the boys discover that their new home is the former residence of a disappeared local crank and old weirdo (Dern).
Things start to go bump in the night as supernatural events start to occur – all linked to the fears and troubled memories which lay beneath the surface of the three youngsters.
In the 1980’s Joe Dante was one of several directors who created a new kind of cinema – popcorn movies based on adventure and family orientated horror.
Mainly set in small town America with at least one local crank and old mysteries being stirred up upon the arrival of a new face in town (normally a youngster with a single parent or troubled background left to his/her own devices whilst Mom/Dad held down the daytime job) it was like an updated Frank Capra movie with a black but warm heart.
Dante’s Gremlins (1984) was borderline with it’s black humour, minor goose bumps and those little terrors causing havoc everywhere. He then followed this smash with the adventure orientated The Goonies (1985) which has acquired a cult following ever since.
Kids in movies tend to fall into two categories, the outright sickly or annoying (Annakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace) to the likeable and smart (Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events). Luckily all three players fall into the latter and hold our attention for the duration of the escapade.
The cast is further supplemented by Dern (who adds another cameo to his four decades of portraying misfits) as the former resident now living in an abandoned glove factory, lonely and afraid of the dark.
Blink and you’ll miss it but Dante favourite and movie veteran Dick Miller pops up as an aging pizza delivery man.
The chills are mildly eerie rather than jumpy and visually hark back to classic movie moments, the puppet jester is reminiscent of both Stephen King’s It (1990) and the mischief of those gremlins whilst the make-up of the dead girl and the hole world remind us of Beetlejuice (1988).
Some may suggest that the jumpy moments are too mild, but surely this is more akin to a Scooby Doo adventure rather than any Amityville Horror (albeit some scenes may make younger viewers jump).
The use of 3D is used well, especially within a film which has a basement and dark void at it’s core. Dern’s barrenly dark factory residence lit by dozens of hanging bulbs and lampshades is the most creative use of the format I have yet seen. However, I’m still not convinced by 3D (it causes eye strain and the layer of chemical on the glasses give the impression of watching a film through dirty shades) and the Â£2 extra per ticket.
At 92 minutes The Hole feels short and may leave you awaiting a final act that does not transpire. Whilst there is nothing new here, Dante does manage to capture the feel of those 80’s classics and allow his young protagonists to drive the film forward.
It will not set the world alight but it is likeable and provides escapist popcorn cinema that we all sometimes need.
Dante revisits the 80’s to provide an enjoyable slice of Scooby Doo adventure for kids and nostalgic adults alike. Recommended.