Length: 92 minutes
Release Date: Sept. 28, 2012; Oct. 2, 2012 (DVD)
Directed by: Joe Dante
Genre: Mystery and Suspense/Kids and Family
Stars: 3 out of 5
If you were a fan of the campy younger-child horror and thriller films of the 1980s, or a fan of director Joe Dante, then “The Hole” is a must-see movie.
Susan Thompson (Teri Polo) makes a cross-country move from Brooklyn to a small town in Oregon with her two sons Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble). They move into a quaint house with a slightly disturbing element. The boys become friends with their next-door-neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett), and while the three are exploring the basement, they discover a padlocked door. When they open the door, they discover a hole that seems to be endless, a fact that is borne out when a series of items thrown into the hole never make contact with the ground. It is only after the trio closes the door that they realize they have unleashed a spirit that causes their nightmares to come to life. Julie is haunted by a girl in white, Dane battles his father who takes the form of a monster, and Lucas is stalked by a clown doll. Determined to find a solution to rid themselves of the spirit, the three track down the former owner of the house, Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern) who sheds light on the spirit, and whose advice leads to adventures in an abandoned glove factory, a carnival, and various parts of the house.
For those familiar with the style of horror movies in the 1980s, this movie will conjure up several memories. Dante, who made a name for himself with classic movies such as “Gremlins” and “Small Soldiers,” has returned to what he does best, creating horror movies for kids, and he has brought the 1980s back with him. The premise of a single mom uprooting her kids for a new life was an element in several movies from that decade, such as “Lost Boys.” Kids banding together to defeat evil was ever-present in “The Goonies,” “Gremlins,” and “Nightmare on Elm Street.” In addition, most of the horror films from that era had one creepy character who often turned out to be the hero in the end. So, although “The Hole” doesn’t present anything new in regards to horror films, it does offer a nice trip down memory lane, and it is one that can be taken with the kids in tow.
The acting in the movie is good, but there are no breakout performances. Massoglia is believable as a fourteen-year-old who resents leaving his life behind, but he can’t help but develop a crush on his new neighbor. Bennett is your typical next-door girl: helpful, friendly, and not completely aware of the crush Dane has on Julie. Gamble plays the typical younger sibling as they tend to be in these types of movie: a bit on the obnoxious side, determined to make his older sibling investigate, and the only one who seems to see the obvious. Gamble’s Lucas is reminiscent of Gertie from “E.T.” Teri Polo is fine as the mom, though you don’t see much of her, past the typical mom-isms of what not to do, imploring both her sons to try to get along with each other, and pointing out to Dane that he’s the “man of the house.” Dern is suitably unsettling as Creepy Carl.
“The Hole” was filmed in 3D back in 2009, when the 3D craze first reemerged. However, unlike so many recent movies filmed in 3D just to attract audiences and raise ticket prices, Dante’s film direction lends itself well to the genre. There are a few gimmicky uses of 3D, such as when a ball is thrown directly toward the camera, but for the most part the use of the technology makes sense and helps propel the movie. The 3D scenes at the carnival are the best use of the technology in the film. However, if you cannot see the movie in 3D, the film is just as good in its 2D version.
This is not the usual horror film with blood and guts and random killings of innocent people for no apparent reason. This movie is a kids movie first, a horror film second. The author of the screenplay, Mark L. Smith, has stated he set out to write a horror film his 12-year-old could watch, and Dante stays true to that premise. Tweens and younger teens will enjoy the film, and if older audiences keep the purpose of the film in mind, it could be enjoyable for them as well.