The Hole (2009)

Finally. Finally, Joe Dante has returned to the directors chair and finally, his latest theatrical picture "The Hole" has been released. Filmed way back in 2009, but not receiving a proper release here in the states until earlier this year, "The Hole" has all the elements you would expect from the director of "Gremlins" and "The 'Burbs." But do those elements add up to successful return for Dante? Or do they fall a bit flat? Fortunately for us it's mostly the former.

Dane (Chris Massoglia) and his little brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) move from Brooklyn to small town suburbia and they are non to happy about it. Their absentee mom (Teri Polo) is a nurse whose job keeps her away at for long periods at a time. Left to their own devices, the boys begin exploring their new house. They quickly discover a hole in the basement, a hole that seems to go on forever. Dane also takes an interest in his new young, nubile neighbor, Julie (Haley Bennet), an interest that after a while turns out to be mutual.

All is not well in suburbia however. In opening The Hole the group has released an ancient evil, one that preys on they deepest most fears. For young Lucas it's his irrational fear of clowns. Neighbor Julie is haunted by the death of a friend at an amusement park when she was younger. Danes biggest fear involves his abusive, alcoholic father.

These fears begin to manifest themselves slowly, as they do in all good horror films. A clowns jingle here, a little girls laugh there. The tension heightens. Finally the kids realize that something just isn't right. They make a few unsuccessful attempts to recover The Hole. realizing they need some grown up help. They seek out the houses former owner "Creepy" Carl (and should every Carl be either Creepy or Crazy?). Unfortunately, Carl (Bruce Dern) isn't just right in the head these days. He's not very helpful, but Dane forgets the sketch pad he brought with him. When he returns for it, Carl has gone the way of the DoDo, but he left the sketch pad behind, along with some additional sketches of his own.

The attacks become physical, with young Lucas fighting off a sinister looking clown on several occasions. When Lucas disappears, Dane and Julie use the sketch pad, along with sketches, to discern it was Dane and Lucas' father, or the fearful manifestation of, that has pulled him into The Hole. Armed with that info, Dane jumps into The Hole to face his fears and save his little brother.

Dante does some great things in this film. The way he treats the relationship between the people and small town suburbia is tremendous. The scares are built effectively, especially Lucas' clown fear. Dante does almost everything here. The only real criticism is the way Dante attacks the final act. Gone is the hubris and humor from the first two thirds of the film. Perhaps because the subject matter is so heavy. Child abuse in nothing to be laughed at. Dante decided to steer clear of the jokes. That can be understood, but it does take away from the end of the film.

That being said, The Hole is one hell of a good film. The fact that this film never had the opportunity to be seen on a large scale (at least here in America) is a travesty all in itself. Is it as good as the the Mid-80s height of PG-13 horror? Is it as good as "Gremlins", "Ghostbusters", and "The Goonies"? No, but it doesn't have to be. It's a fun time and a great film if you have older kids and are looking to get them enthused about film.

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