Judge Mitchell Hattaway is pretty sure this review will be posted on a Friday. And he'd be right.
Once you get in, you can't get out.
You say you've never heard of The Hole? Well, that's not surprising. This 2001 British import was never given a theatrical release here in the United States, but co-star Keira Knightley is now a hot property, and word of her topless scene in the film has been going around, so the folks at Dimension have dusted it off and released it on DVD. Remind me not to thank them.
Facts of the Case
It's the end term of at a prestigious British prep school. Liz (Thora Birch, American Beauty) and her friend Frankie (Keira Knightley, Bend it Like Beckham) skip the school's field trip to Wales and spend the weekend in an old bomb shelter with Mike (Desmond Harrington, Ghost Ship) and Geoff (Laurence Fox), two members of the school's rugby team. Liz's friend Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank) leads them to the shelter, lets them in, and locks the door from the outside, telling them he'll be back in three days to let them out. Three days pass and Martyn does not come back; in fact, he never comes back. Fifteen days later a traumatized Liz emerges from the shelter, walks back to the school, phones the police, and screams her head off. She is taken to the hospital, and the bodies of her three dead friends are soon recovered from the shelter. Liz, who thinks she only spent three days in the shelter and does not know her friends are dead, tells Dr. Horwood (Embeth Davidtz, Schindler's List), the police psychiatrist monitoring her recovery, that Martyn deliberately left them in the shelter to die; Martyn, on vacation with his family, is brought in by the police and questioned. He says Liz is lying and that he had nothing to do with it. Unable to produce enough evidence to charge Martyn with a crime, the police release him. Liz returns home, fearing what Martyn will now do. But is she afraid Martyn will come to kill her, or is she afraid he'll tell the police what he really knows?
The Hole is incredibly stupid. The plot is stupid, and the characters are stupid. The structure and execution of the film are maddening. The above plot summary covers the first half of the film, which deals with Liz's version of events; it's obvious from the beginning she's lying, which means the second half of this tedious film will recount what actually happened. Unfortunately, what really happened is just as nonsensical as the story Liz concocts for the psychiatrist.
I'm going to break down some of this film's inanities, and I'm pretty much going to ruin the so-called surprises in the story, so if you think you want to see The Hole, and don't want the plot spoiled, you might want to skip over this section. (Trust me, though, you don't want to see it.)
• Liz is the only one who comes back from the shelter alive, which should automatically make anything she says suspect. I don't care if she is traumatized, her story doesn't make a bit of sense. According to her, the four friends went down into the shelter and spent the next three days burning candles and talking about life and their futures. Yeah, right. (The dialogue in these scenes is that type of Dawson's Creek nonsense screenwriters dream up; it's not how teenagers talk—it's how screenwriters wish they themselves had talked as teenagers.) On the fourth day they uncover some listening devices Martyn has installed in the shelter. (Huh?) They stand near the devices, pretend to be fighting with one another, and make it seem like Frankie is sick, hoping Martyn will have a change of heart and let them out; the next morning the door is open. Let me get this straight—Martyn left them in there to die, but decided to let them out because Frankie was sick and the rest of them weren't having a good time? Kindheartedness is always an admirable trait in homicidal sociopath.
• There's no evidence whatsoever to tie Martyn to the incident. The only reason he's picked up is because Liz says spending the weekend in the shelter was his idea. (C'mon, have the British police never been lied to before? Has no one in the country ever seen The Usual Suspects?) In her version of events, she tells Martyn she wants to be alone with Mike, and Martyn tells her he can arrange something. But she also says Martyn has been in love with her since they were twelve and hates Mike, Frankie, and Geoff. So the guy who's crushing on you offers to lock you and the guy you like in a hole for three days and you blindly go along with it? Would any detective with a brain buy that? C'mon, if Martyn had locked them in there for eighteen days he would deserve a medal for trying to rid the world of these idiots.
• Frankie dies of heart failure while in the shelter; this is brought on by bulimia and her habit of downing handfuls of diet pills. Okay, so that's not really a problem for the cops. But think about this: Mike bashes Geoff's head in after he discovers Geoff has been hiding a can of Coke. Geoff's blood and brains are smeared all over the floor of the shelter. You'd think the police would find this a little suspicious, but they don't bring it up when talking to Liz. Mike is killed when he and Liz are about to leave the shelter, right after he discovers Liz was actually behind the whole thing and has been hiding the key to the door in her shoe. (There's a ladder leading to the shelter door and it breaks free as Mike is climbing it; he falls to the floor, is impaled on a metal strut and dies.) The cops don't bother to mention this either.
• We're led to believe Liz went to the shelter hoping to get closer to Mike, but goes nuts after finding out he and Frankie had slept together a few years earlier. Okay, so why does the second half of the film make it look like Liz had been meaning from the get-go to lock them all in and let the others die? If that's the case, why doesn't she sneak out in the middle of the night and leave the other three behind? Are we supposed to believe she would stay in there for almost three weeks just to strengthen her story?
• Why is Martyn helping Liz? She's suckered him in so she'll have a scapegoat, but what was he expecting to get out of it? (I know what the obvious answer is, but I don't buy it.)
• It's a good thing there's a dam conveniently located a few yards from Liz's house—makes it real easy to dispose of co-conspirators. (This dam is on the edge of an upscale residential neighborhood, so why is it so easy to gain access to it?) Martyn shows up at Liz's home, chases her to the dam, breaks down while accusing her of ratting him out, and she pushes him into the water. His body washes up, and the police pull the shelter's key out of his pocket and think he killed himself out of guilt. Why come to this conclusion? Doesn't it seem a little funny that he was in Liz's neighborhood at the time of his death?
• These kids are gone for eighteen days. There's a bomb shelter within walking distance of the school. No one thinks about checking the shelter? Think about it…teenagers, bomb shelter? Come on! (There was an old bomb shelter at my college and people used to sneak into it all the time. It was cool; the food stored in it was still edible.)
• Can you really survive for eighteen days with no food or water, and no source of fresh air? Physically Liz looks no worse for wear when she finally emerges from the shelter, but I guess it's not really a big deal. Ha!
• Liz, apparently for no other reason than to gloat about how she got away with it, confesses everything to Horwood after the psychiatrist takes her back to the shelter. Horwood tells Liz she must put down all this information on a signed statement. Liz says she's not confessing, gives the doctor her best evil movie villain grin and that's the end of the whole thing. Say what?
• Where'd the bloody key come from? The plot hinges revolves around an old, abandoned bomb shelter and there's no explanation as to how Martyn and Liz obtained the key. I guess the people responsible for dam safety in Great Britain are also responsible for keeping up with bomb shelter keys.
Okay, that's enough about the plot. Let's talk about the acting, which isn't so hot, either. Half the cast is overly earnest and the other half overacts. Birch also has a problem maintaining her accent; she doesn't give Kevin Costner a run for his money in the inconsistent accent department, but it's still funny to hear it crack on occasion.
The disc boasts a fairly decent transfer; there's a good bit edge enhancement and quite a bit haloing in a few shots, but color balance and saturation are quite nice. The audio doesn't fare so well; dialogue is pushed back in the mix and as a result is too often unintelligible. There's some good bass response, especially in Clint Mansell's music (which, by the way, is ripped off from John Carpenter); the surrounds are put to good use on occasion, mainly for the score and in transitions to the film's numerous flashbacks.
Extras consist of cast/crew bios, the film's theatrical trailer, a stills gallery, a few deleted scenes, and a commentary. The deleted scenes, oddly enough, make the plot holes more obvious; they also contain a brief coda to the film, which would have been little too reminiscent of Single White Female for its own good. The commentary by director Nick Hamm (who's also responsible for subjecting the world to Godsend) is one of the worst I've ever heard. He kindly describes all the action (I don't need to be told Thora Birch is picking up a magazine while I'm watching Thora Birch pick up a magazine), explains the plot in excruciatingly minute detail, and pats himself on the back for making such a clever film. (With all due respect to Mr. Hamm, this film's about as clever as an episode of Who's the Boss?) He also says we're not meant to know what's really going on in the film; you can take that however you like, but I think he's trying to cover up his own ineptitude. After all, this is a man who expects us to believe Liz, after emerging from the shelter, kept the key hidden in her mouth for several days, even though she's shown being given a thorough physical exam after she's admitted to the hospital.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The Hole plays a lot better if you imagine Kelly Osbourne in the Thora Birch role. (Just goes to show how bored I got while watching this.)
Seeing Keira Knightley topless for five seconds in no way justifies the existence of this piece of junk. Besides, she was fifteen or sixteen at the time, so that just makes it wrong anyway. (By the way, shouldn't somebody be screaming about all the teenage humping in this film? Isn't that what had everyone up in arms about The Tin Drum a few years back? Ah, there's never a member of the Moral Majority around when you need one.) Two words: skip it.
Yep, there's no doubt about it, The Hole is guilty. I'm gonna go dig me a hole and bury my copy.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Dimension Films
• Deleted Scenes
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