Everything is a little reminiscent of the horror hit “The Babadook”, but the strengths of the obvious role model can THE HOLE IN THE GROUND don’t connect. We reveal in our review why the horror drama is a disappointment despite a strong idea.
The Plot Summary
Sarah (Seána Kerslake) tries to put her past behind her and moves to the outskirts of a remote small town with her eight-year-old son Chris (James Quinn Markey). When Chris runs into the forest after an argument, Sarah discovers a deep sinkhole in the ground while looking for him. Chris returns seemingly unharmed, but Sarah soon notices frightening changes in his behavior. The disturbing encounter with the confused neighbor who killed her own child years ago only deepens Sarah’s distrust. Is the boy who lives in her house really her son Chris?
Explanation of the Ending
In 2014, the Australian-Canadian horror drama “The Babadook” by debut director Jennifer Kent was one of the co-founders of a “New Wave of Horror”. Sophisticatedly told, variedly staged films that focus more on psychological terror than quick shock still provide a nice alternative to the jump scare-driven mass production of large production studios, at the forefront of which Jason Blum and his company Blumhouse Productions are often mentioned. This wave continues to this day and has given rise to films such as It Follows, It Comes at Night, Hereditary and the Suspiria remake. Now comes the next entry in this extremely successful horror chapter with “The Hole in the Ground” – and it reveals a noticeable redundancy. The Irish auteur Lee Cronin, for whom this project represents a feature film debut, just as Jennifer Kent’s “The Babadook” once did, makes it more than clear with his film that he has seen pretty much all of the New Wave horror films and internalized how they work . However, he does not give any impulses of his own. And that makes “The Hole in the Ground” a rather dispensable representative of its genre, despite its promising approaches.
The life together between Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and son Chris (James Quinn Markey) is increasingly characterized by mistrust.
The initial situation of “The Babadook” is as follows: After the tragic death of the father, a dysfunctional mother-son team grows further and further apart until their life together is only characterized by fears, provocations and self-hatred. The sudden appearance of a book that portends doom in the form of a creepy figure called the Babadook worsens this condition and is at the same time a symbol of unspoken words and unprocessed grief. The premise of “The Hole in the Ground,” on the other hand, is: A dysfunctional mother-son team grows further and further apart after fleeing from their violent father, until their life together is only characterized by fears, provocations and self-hatred. The sudden appearance of a sinkhole worsens this condition and is also a symbol of unspoken words and unprocessed trauma. We don’t really need to emphasize it again, but: In terms of content, “The Babadook” and “The Hole in the Ground” are similar in very basic aspects, which Lee Cronin doesn’t even disguise; on the contrary: through his way of staging he even underlines the similarities.
Imagery, pacing, set pieces – although the events of “The Hole in the Ground” are set in the Irish countryside, while “The Babadook” is set in a suburb of Australia, both films look extremely similar, as the cameramen focus on a similarly expressive film Set design. Cinematographer Tom Comerford (“The Drummer and the Keeper”) follows his characters with almost stoic calm; always keeps a certain distance and only uses close-ups when the circumstances require otherwise (for example when a scene takes place in a car). A brown-grayish veil colors the action on screen in such a way that melancholy and sadness are omnipresent. Something like joy or confidence can never prevail here. “Babadook” cinematographer Radek Ladczuk had this form of visualized desolation (“The Nightingale”) perfected by creating images similar to black and white using targeted lighting and the greatest possible color reduction. If you don’t understand the state of grief of the two mothers at the center of the story, the visuals of the films make it more than clear.
What happened to little Chris?
But although Lee Cronin ultimately relies on an almost identical directing potpourri as his colleague Jennifer Kent, the end result of “The Hole in the Ground” does not have a comparable emotional impact. This is not only because Cronin uses a far less subtle approach to dress the essentially highly dramatic mother-son story in a horror guise using standard genre mechanisms; The functionality of the hole, which functions both symbolically and literally, is clear from the start, as the script by Lee Cronin and series author Stephen Shields (“Republic of Telly”) gives hints very early on, which are ultimately resolved exactly as they come. Also leading actress Seána Kerslake (“A Date for Mad Mary”) and her on-screen son James Quinn Markey (“Vikings”) Compared to their colleagues Essie Davies and Noah Wiseman, they act as if they had the handbrake on, which is particularly noticeable in the particularly nerve-wracking scenes. In contrast, the two work very well in the smaller-scale, emotional exchange between mother and son. And otherwise they adapt to the calm, slow structure of the film, which really turns up the heat again in its finale, which is reminiscent of “The Descent”. Although this at least ensures a consistent conclusion, it clashes so much with the tonality of the previous 80 minutes that it takes you out of your mood for a brief moment. During the “Babadook,” the ever-increasing tension had to be released spectacularly at some point. In the case of “The Hole in the Ground,” however, it seems like pure sensationalism.
Conclusion: So much in “The Hole in the Ground” is reminiscent of so much else that the film is unable to develop a unique selling point until the very end. However, it cannot be denied that he can still create a strong atmosphere at times.
“The Hole in the Ground” can be seen in selected USA cinemas from May 2nd.