Directed by Joe Dante
Starring Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble
Review by Jordan
Single mother Susan (Teri Polo) and her two sons, the older, troubled teen Dane (Massoglia) and young, spritely Lucas (Gamble, an established likable child actor thanks to his performance in The Mist) move from Brooklyn to the far smaller, rural Bensonville much to Dane’s distain. Like the title of this film, the town is a hole, with none of the excitement of the city and of course none of the friends the boys previously had; thankfully though, they meet attractive next-door neighbour Julie (Bennet) and an adventure unlike anything they could’ve dreamed (had a nightmare about) begins…
If there is a better example of a director returning to form and creating a film that hearkens back to a bygone era than Joe Dante’s The Hole, I’d love to see it (there probably is, but I just found this one great fun). I’m not saying it’s an exemplary film, but it’s one that knows it limitations and criteria for success and nails all of them, being at once charming, funny, exciting and downright frightening. Dante unfortunately doesn’t get the industry respect he deserves, having gone from Corman protégé to accomplished director of fun horror and family films such as Piranha (1978), The Howling (1981 – definitely not a family film), Gremlins (1984), Innerspace (1987), The ‘Burbs (1989), Matinee (1993) and a staple of my childhood, Small Soldiers (1998). Many would notice a similarity in careers with the excitable John Landis, forever referred to as a horror legend despite spending most of his career in comedy (not that I’m arguing against legendary status for either of them… An American Werewolf in London and The Howling rescued and revitalised the Werewolf and are both involving, technical marvels).
I’ll admit also to relishing the fact that James Cameron’s first film as director was a sequel to a Dante film (Piranha 2), which by default makes the suit-wearing, fast-talking one a better director, yeah?
Watching The Hole, with its wacky, almost cartoonish supporting characters, un-PC language and scares (for a film primarily marketed at kids) and immediate, unshakable likability is like being transported back to the ‘80s, where Spielberg and co were sending kids on far-out adventures and igniting their audiences imagination like no other time. Whenever our 3 heroes open the latch and peer down the mysterious abyss in the basement there is a feverish, childish anticipation that follows, and though at least one of the fears that materialise into reality is a bit lacklustre, anyone with a fear of clowns will get a real kick out of the highlight. Needless to say, it’s clear by the film’s end that The Hole, with its far smaller scope and budget, did what JJ Abrams Super 8 (2011) set out to do in a manner far more sating. Also, while the 3D here is not by any means essential (I prefer watching it in 2D), it is not a detractor at all, if that’s your thing.
If you missed The Hole upon release (as was easy to do), or assumed it was just a re-release of the 2001 film of the same name starring a young Keira Knightly (also worth checking out), then I highly recommend casting aside any cynicism and diving in. Horror fans may find it too childish, and fans of children’s films may find it too scary, but if you have a spot of nostalgia and like to level out your serious films with some good old fashion escapism, then as Gremlins did back in ’84, this will hit the spot.
4 swimming clowns out of 5