Surprisingly for a family-friendly horror, The Hole plunges deeper into darker material than expected. Aside from the horror aspect, director Joe Dante recaptures the Spielbergian sense of adventure that made his previous works, namely Gremlins and The ‘Burbs, so endearing.
After their mother decides to move house for the umpteenth time, brothers Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) struggle to settle into their new small-town surroundings. Together, along with new neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett), they stumble upon a heavily padlocked trapdoor in their basement. A seemingly bottomless hole dwells beneath the trapdoor which, once unlocked, proves to be the catalyst for nightmarish occurrences for the three lead characters.
It’s a fascinating premise that tackles some unexpectedly dark themes. We know that the mother, Susan (Teri Polo), is running away from something. We’re also aware that the titular hole signifies different things to each character. There’s an overwhelming air of mystery here that keeps us hooked, and it’s not until the final act that everything is revealed. The significance of the hole, the reasons behind the numerous house-moves and all of the subtle nuances that we might have missed all come together during the film’s third act.
There’s a quality to most of Joe Dante’s movies that’s difficult to describe. From the criminally under-appreciated The ‘Burbs to the excellent Gremlins, there’s a sense of adventure mingled with child-like imagination and wonder. Scary themes are present, but there’s an undercurrent of good-natured humour and family values. The Hole is no different in that regard. There’s a definite darkness here but it’s all disarmingly charming.
Ostensibly, The Hole is a horror, but it’s unlikely to attract modern horror fans. Instead of the traditional gore and violence synonymous with recent horror films, The Hole relies on an uneasy atmosphere and lingering suspense for its scares. Ultimately, it’s a nostalgia-rich mystery that takes us back to the family adventures that we remember fondly from our childhood.