Joe Dante returns to his horror roots with this fun filled adventure into the darkest fears of three friends. Firstly, after watching this film I must admit the advertising was all wrong. This is NOT a family film, it is a horror. Granted it’s not a completely adult horror and teens would find much to love about this too, but it does have moments the I believe are far too shocking for its 12 certificate. Complaints aside, I wasn’t sure what to expect from the guy who followed Piranha and Gremlins with films like Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. I am happy to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed this comedy/horror and funnily enough, it reminded me of films from the 80’s like Gremlins and even the Goonies. You all remember those types of films, adventure with a touch of danger and a dash of horror but always playing safe allowing a much wider audience to love them. The Hole is just that, it borders on both nasty adult horror and smart almost childlike fun and this style makes the Hole a horror that is unlike any other in recent memory. It’s fun, doesn’t get too serious and doesn’t need gore to make up for its lack of adult shocks.
Meet Dane and his younger brother Lucas, they have moved to a new suburban house thanks to their Mum Susan getting a new job. They have moved around a lot in their lives escaping a troubled family life thanks to an abusive father. Dane is an unhappy chap and clearly has had enough of moving and just wants a normal life. He soon starts to smile after seeing his next door neighbour. She is called Julie and Dane has fallen in love. As with good old fashioned films, Dane is too embarrassed to approach Julie and would rather watch her from the safety of his bedroom window. Lucas steps in and makes the first move, pointing out his older brother at the window and embarrassing him. In a bid to save face, Dane introduces himself by chasing his brother and the two end up in the basement of their new house. Fighting with each other, they knock over a few things revealing what looks like a bolted trap door in the basement floor. As with all good adventure films, the two brothers cannot resist the temptation of not knowing and decide to find a way to get the padlocks open and see what’s inside. By this time Julie from next door has come down to see what all the commotion is, and so begins their adventure into fear.
The revealing and opening of the hole is really quite magical and made me feel like a kid again, it’s a real nostalgia trip and it’s brilliant to see Dante has lost none of the skills that made Gremlins so great. The pacing of the film up to this point has been just perfect and now becomes a relentless rush to find out just what is in the Hole, and why it doesn’t seem to have a bottom. Why would they have a bottomless pit in their basement? The mystery of the Hole is soon revealed and the three new best friends start seeing strange goings on, like a deformed little girl crawling around very much like Sadako from the Ring films. There is also a vicious Jester who borders the film on being TOO scary for some teens as it does the best Chucky impression possible. With tongue firmly in cheek, the scares and mystery unfold in the nicest way and with a charm and gentle comedy just to remind you that this is not strictly for adults, and if you are adult you can enjoy this and imagine being a kid again. Dante gets the balance inch perfect and the film moves along so well you hardly notice how long it has been on for. There is no hope of getting bored here. The cast are all good fun with the parents being boring and stubborn and the kids wanting to do it all alone and not let on what is down in the basement. The three kids themselves handle their scripts and situations well, with good, believable acting although my main complaint is Dane does become a bit irritating in parts. That said, it’s hard not to like everyone involved here. We even have the classic mad scientist guy who used to own the house, and this mad scientist is obsessed with lights!
I will not tell you why he’s obsessed as it may give too much away, but he certainly knows a thing or two about what is happening. Again, meeting the scientist is like another scene direct from the 80’s with its charm and mystery, and the fact you instantly like a guy who may or may not be the cause of all their problems. The music also helps lift the film; with almost full on comic music in places, and then this turns to sudden full on horror music the next instant. You could argue Dante couldn’t make up his mind if he wanted to make a horror or a kid’s film. Personally, I think he settled for both and met in the middle to make a fun adventure that can’t be pigeonholed as one or the other. It’s the kid’s adventure that’s ok for adults to like, and the horror it’s ok for young teens to watch. Things do become very dark as we head toward the ending, and again the actors give it their best shot in some scenes that are genuinely unsettling. Hats off to Dante for creating something that is up there with those 80’s family horror classics like Gremlins, Ghostbusters and Poltergeist. Today’s horror fan may have moved on and all they want is gore, but I am very happy to admit really enjoying something that doesn’t take itself too seriously, knows when to add the scares and knows when to add the laughs. It sets itself up perfectly with brilliant pacing, an engaging story and likeable characters. The Hole is a film that suffered badly from a poor advertising campaign and should have really gone down as a minor classic. It will most definitely be gracing my DVD collection.