Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Hole (2009)

Director Joe Dante was part of the group of directors from the 1980s that created some of the key films from my childhood. Gremlins, Explorers even Twilight Zone: The Movie. And though he is also known for his love of classic monster flicks and penchant toward Looney Tunes, he also created some interesting and unique family entertainment. When I heard his latest flick had been shelved for a couple years before release, I wondered what happened?

Dane (Chris Massoglia) and his little brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) have moved to a small suburban town with their mom Susan (Teri Polo). Dane is pretty annoyed by the whole thing until he notices the very cute next-door neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett). After some awkward attempts to strike up a conversation (his little brother has no problems with it, much to Dane’s annoyance), the three start hanging out.

That’s when they discover the bizarre trap door in the basement. The kids open it and discover a literal abyss yawning before them. They attempt several experiments to see how deep the chasm delves and what could be inside. Julie reveals that the former owner, now known as Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern) went crazy in the house and moved out after several incidents. Very quickly all three kids learn just what kind of incidents these could be. Disturbing visions start haunting the three, including a ghostly girl, a horrific clown puppet and Dane’s abusive father who seems to be free from prison. And now that the door is open, there seems to be no way to close and keep whatever is inside The Hole from coming out.

Good Points:
  • Balances laughs and scares fairly well
  • The clown puppet is a horrifying creation
  • All three kids feel authentic and help pull in the viewer

Bad Points:
  • Yes it’s a horror film, but don’t expect blood, boobs or anything in that vein
  • Sometimes the creative moments don’t quite connect that way they were intended to
  • The ghost girl feels a bit similar to the typical Japanese ghost girl we are overly familiar with

One thing about Joe Dante is that he always tries to bring something a bit different to his movies. This is no exception. PG-13 horror usually means a de-fanged slasher flick or Twilight rip off. Instead, Dante crafts a family friendly horror film. The humor comes form the character relationships (the banter and rough housing between the brothers, the awkward teen boy trying to talk to the teen girl, etc.) and some solid jump scares and creepy moments. Some of the resolutions don’t quite have the impact they are supposed to and I can’t put my finger on why they don’t work. But all in all it’s an entertaining film with likable characters and one creepy ass clown puppet. That thing gave me the shivers.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 4
Script: 3
Music: 4
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.


  1. The classic Golden Age horror flicks did without exploding heads and graphic amour, and there is value to having some today that one can watch with one's kids (not that I have any) without boredom.

    1. Agreed. It was nice to see the PG13 rating used creatively instead of trying to make an R rated film and removing all the good bits to hit the PG13.

    2. Just as an example of what the old-timers could achieve, this scene from Val Lewton's The Leopard Man (1943) is terrifying, even though there is nothing more graphic in it than a door.

    3. We caught that movie a few years ago. They were running a Val Lewton marathon on TCM around Halloween time. They were all a lot of fun. Caught this one, "Cat People" and one with actual zombies of the voodoo variety. Can't remember the name of that one off the top of my head. But you are right, they were very effective without needing huge special effects. The original version of "The Haunting" does a similar trick with camera work, sound effects and production design (but obviously a larger budget than Lewton worked with).