Written by Tom Moore
Capturing a mysteriously eerie tone and showcasing how creepy the woods can really be, The Hole in the Ground is a strong feature debut for Irish writer-director, Lee Cronin.
The film follows Sarah (Seana Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey), as they move to a backwoods rural town to escape a broken past. Things take an unexpected dark turn, though, when Chris starts to show some creepy behavior, making Sarah believe that her son is not who he says he is. Now, she must figure out what has happened to her son and how it connect to a giant sinkhole in the woods.
Cronin does a great job of making the woods an incredibly creepy place and the dark atmosphere makes you feel claustrophobic. There is a constant sense of loneliness as scenes of Sarah driving on the road and in the woods show her as entirely isolated. With the density of the forest, Sarah almost feels powerless and it gave me an uncomfortable feeling that I haven’t felt with other horror films. Cronin uses this environment excellently to create an incredible tension and it even leads to a small sequence that is reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project and Slender: The Eight Pages.
The environment isn’t working alone, though, as Kerslake and Markey elevate the eeriness of The Hole in the Ground with solid performances. Their relationship feels real and there’s a lot of great details given about their relationship that not only lets viewers get to know them, but also give clues for when things don’t seem right. Markey is excellent at creating bone-chilling moments with a dark sense of innocence and I really like how it’s tough, at first, for Kerslake to consider her son not being who he should be. The way she goes about trying to figure out what’s happening makes sense and the use of details, like Chris’s fears or his knowledge of games they play, is really well-done and pretty easy to follow.
As a whole, I appreciate the simplicity of The Hole in the Ground as it mixes between a “creepy kid” movie and a bit of a monster movie. There are some great elements of body horror in some dream-like sequences that will make your skin crawl and if you’re afraid of spiders, like me, there’s a couple scenes that will give you chills.
The only place where I found myself feeling a little unsatisfied is towards the film’s finale. While I actually think that Sarah and Chris get a perfectly satisfying and dark conclusion to their story, I can’t say the same about the film’s “creatures.” Frankly, it’s even tough to say what they are as we get some inkling as to what they can do. There is some startling imagery and a shot in the finale that’s a little jaw-dropping, but we never get a sense of what they are. Nor do we ever figure out what they’re after and it leads to them being unmemorable. It’s unfortunate because their presence did make me more curious about them and this could be fixed or explored in a sequel—which I would be definitely willing to see, but won’t rely on seeing.
Either way, there’s still more than enough in The Hole in the Ground to give viewers the eeriness and chill-inducing scares that they want to see. Cronin has definitely put in enough effort to make me see what he does next and keep my fingers crossed that we will hopefully see more from him soon.