Case Number 24553: Small Claims Court

THE HOLE (2009)

Big Air Studios // 2009 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // September 24th, 2012

The Charge

It knows your deepest fears.

The Case

Brothers Dane (Chris Massogila, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble, Dolphin Tale), and their single mother Susan (Teri Polo, Meet the Parents) have moved from the big city to a small town where everybody knows everybody's business. While unpacking their belongings, the two boys and new friend Julie (Haley Bennett, Marley and Me) stumble across a padlocked trapdoor in their basement. Being the curious kids they are, Dane and Lucas pry open the musty door and discover a giant gaping hole that leads to seemingly nowhere. Seemingly innocuous at first, strange happenings quickly become more frequent, leading to the appearance of demonic clown doll and a ghostly little girl roaming the halls of their new home. The boys are about discover this hole may hold something far more sinister than either of them could have ever imagined!

The Hole is the first film from director Joe Dante in ten long years. Film buffs know Dante as the man behind such genre classics as the Roger Corman produced cheapie Piranha, the werewolf classic The Howling, and the '80s classic Gremlins. Dante's filmography revels in B-movies with A-level budgets. There's the comedy-thriller The 'Burbs (a personal favorite), the wildly weird Gremlins 2: The New Batch, and the action adventure Small Soldiers. As a fan, I've always liked that Dante stays primarily true to his roots. His films are often fantastical, funny, scary, action-packed adventures which never take themselves too seriously. Although hiscinematic peak is now far behind him (his last big pic was the flop Looney Toons: Back in Action), it's nice to see that Joe is still working behind the camera every once in a while.

All that said, I'm going to be rather blunt: The Hole isn't a great or even very good movie. It starts off with a lot of promise and quickly squanders it by going nowhere fast. The film jumps almost instantly into the kids finding the film's namesake deathtrap, and from there it's a lot of slamming doors, creepy sounds, and a menacing toy clown that isn't half as terrifying as the one found in Tobe Hooper's superior Poltergeist. I didn't have any investment in the fates of Dane, Lucas, or Julie. For all I cared, they could have fallen down the hole, slammed the door shut, and rolled the credits. It's not that the actors are annoying; it's just that they aren't interesting enough for me care about where they end up.

The story, from the mind of screenwriter Mark L. Smith (Seance), is fairly straightforward and simple, bringing to mind memories of '80s genre pic The Gate, a better "there's a hole in our house" movie. Some sequences are eerily well done, like when Creepy Carl (Bruce Dern, Last Man Standing) -- a side character who knows more about The Hole than anyone -- rushes to finish a drawing, screaming "I'm not done yet!," as a plethora of light bulbs pop all around him. But The Hole tends to be riddled with pitfalls, the biggest being if Carl knows this hole to be so dangerous (he used to live in the house), why would he move out and not tell anyone about this easily accessible apocalyptic abyss?

As The Hole speeds towards its inevitable climax -- raise your hand if you are shocked to learn the kids go down into the hole -- the film's budgetary limitations become obvious. The start of the final act suddenly takes a dramatic turn into decidedly more serious reality-based horror (child abuse) that undermines the lighter tone of everything that preceded it. I expected the movie to end much differently and found the conclusion to be ultimately anticlimactic.

Presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the color saturation is excellent with black levels appearing dark and even. The image is clear and looks excellent for standard definition. Like many horror movies, the directional effects found in this Dolby 5.1 Surround mix, are plentitful and Javier Navarrete's tense (Goldsmith-esque) film score gets the biggest boost. Also included are Spanish subtitles.

Bonus features include four generic behind-the-scenes featurettes ("The Keyholder: Keeper of the Hole," "Relationships: Family Matters," "Making of The Hole," "A Peek Inside The Hole"), some production photos, and trailers for other Big Air Studios movies.

Like most of Dante's work, The Hole is a teen-friendly spook show. Its PG-13 rating tells the viewer that any gore or violence will be kept to a bare minimum -- a brain sticking out of the back of a man's head is the worst offense -- and it is. Sadly missing from this outing is Dante's frequent music collaborator, composer Jerry Goldsmith, who passed away in 2004. Also missing is Dante's sense of wonder, a spirit found in even the lesser entries of his filmography.

The Verdict

This whole film is kinda the pits.

Review content copyright © 2012 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 67

Perp Profile
Studio: Big Air Studios
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* Spanish

Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Featurettes
* Image Gallery

* IMDb