People often work hard to move past their past mistakes and overcome their fears, but rarely do they have to contend with anxieties that are physically unleashed from their basement. But physical defeating everything that frightens them is certainly the case for the main characters in famed horror genre director Joe Dante’s new film, ‘The Hole.’ While the new adventure fantasy thriller doesn’t create as many emotional and physical scares as the director’s early famed work, the film’s locations do offer intriguing insights into the characters’ mental state of mind.
‘The Hole’ follows 17-year-old brooding artist Dane Thompson (played by Chris Massoglia), as he moves from Brooklyn to the small rural town of Bensonville with his eager 10-year-old brother, Lucas (portrayed by Nathan Gamble), and their mother, Susan (played by Terri Polo). Dane only comes to accept the move when he notices their 17-year-old neighbor, Julie (portrayed by Haley Bennett), who offers to show him around town. But their lives all soon change when Lucas accidentally discovers a strange locked door in their basement.
After Dane manages to open all the locks, they discover a bottomless black hole. By opening the door, Dane and Lucas unknowingly unleash forces of evil, which specifically targets each person’s unique fears. With the help of Julie and while their mother’s at work, Dane and Lucas spend the end of their summer vacation trying to contain the evil that they unwittingly released, as well as face their own fears.
‘The Hole’ had the potential to truly scare audiences by preying on their darkest fears, as Dante, first made a name for himself in the horror genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s, by helming such panic-inducing films as ‘Gremlins,’ ‘Piranha’ and ‘The Howling.’ Unfortunately, the new fantasy horror thriller instead spent a majority of its plot building Dane’s relationships with his family and peers, including his resentment towards his mother for continuously moving the family around the country; his annoyance with Lucas for intruding on his space; and flirting with Julie as she shows him around Bensonville. While the film does offer quick explanations of the characters’ anxieties as they discover more information about the hole, much of Dane, Lucas and Julie’s time is spent questioning if the horrors they’re experiencing are even real. But once the main characters come to accept that the horrors of their past are coming back to harm them, they do break normal horror genre protocol and set out to defeat their fears.
Production designer Brentan Harron made up for the film’s lack of true physical and emotional scares by creating both eerie and relatable locations and sets. The movie starts off in the Thompsons’ new house, and its seemingly normal, non-descript rooms don’t present any reason the hole will cause any harm. But as ‘The Hole’ continues, and Dane, Lucas and Julie set out to investigate how to stop their fears from materializing and harming them, they visit disturbing locations. One such location is the abandoned factory where Julie brings Dane and Lucas to question Bensonville’s recluse, Crazy Carl (played by Bruce Dern), who lived in the Thompsons’ home before they moved in. The startling backdrop of the factory, including the numerous lights Carl has hanging in his room, puts into question whether the information he’s giving the kids about the hole is true.
‘The Hole’ DVD offers several bonus features that offer viewers insight into the film’s production. The featurettes, ‘A Peek Inside ‘The Hole” and ‘Making of ‘The Hole,” detail how Dante created the scares in the movie. The bonus features ‘Relationships (Family Matters)’ ad ‘The Keyholder (Keeper of ‘The Hole’) also show the characters’ personalities and connections to each other, and how they move the plot forward. The DVD also features a gallery of stills from the film.
Dante aimed to recapture the horror and the fears that relentlessly prey on the innocent that characterized his early successful films with ‘The Hole.’ The film unfortunately failed to feature horrifying antagonists who had a purpose for preying on the Thompsons’ and Julie’s darkest fears. But Harron creatively designed locations that perfectly reflect the themes of Dante’s newest horror thriller, including that anyone can rise above their circumstances and defeat what’s truly haunting them.