DIR: Joe Dante • WRI: Mark L. Smith • PRO: Claudio Fäh, David Lancaster, Michel Litvak, Vicki Sotheran • DOP: Theo van de Sande • ED: Marshall Harvey • DES: Brentan Harron • CAST: Teri Polo, Haley Bennett, Bruce Dern
The Hole in 3D sees the long-awaited return of iconic director Joe Dante after six years away from our screens. Dante can be credited with the re-invention of the horror genre and remains one of very few iconic horror directors who have genuine staying power. With movies like Gremlins, Dante re-positioned the horror movie as something parents could experience with their children, rather than something children needed to be protected from. During Dante’s absence horror has seemingly returned to its generic no-man’s-land with very few films having true screen merit, beyond a barrage of ‘torture porn’. Here, Dante seeks to re-invent the genre again, and succeeds.
The Hole follows the story of two brothers who move to a new home with their mother to escape their tyrannical father. Dante’s staple here is the use of horror cliché to create anticipation in his audience, both young and old. We all inevitably see them move to a new home – when it comes to horror, moving house is never a good sign. Older brother Dane struggles to accept the move until he realises they live next door to the gorgeous Julie, whilst younger brother Lucas is unphased and strives to irritate his brother. The brothers and their new tag-along freind Julie find a trap door in their basement and, as the horror genre dictates, basements are never nice places, and heavily padlocked trap-doors just scream ‘open me’. Once the hole is opened, they are hunted by ‘the dark’, which takes the form of their darkest fears.
Dante’s work is extraordinary in its ability to frighten both children and adults whilst simultaneously remaining entertaining. He never fails to include some markers of recognition for adults. When they lower a Cartman doll into the hole, he omits a tirade of abuse which won’t fail to make you giggle. Mark L. Smith has written a very solid and entertaining script here, we believe our family as a unit and Nathan Gamble is outstanding as younger brother Lucas. Haley Bennett’s Julie is somewhat superfluous as a character, and her relationship with Dane (Chris Massoglia) becomes unnecessary next to Gamble’s performance.
For a family horror film, it is genuinely frightening in parts, and I may or may not have fallen prey to some of the ‘jump-scares’. Creepy little disjointed children are always scary, but somehow, in a movie made for kids, they become even more so. The special effects are outstanding, from an eerily listless little ghost girl to a murderous doll, it is flawless. The only issue throughout is the use of 3D. The Hole in 3D really doesn’t need to be in 3D; throughout the film it is used only in gimmicky moments and is an unnecessary afterthought.
With an ending which utilises Maria Montessori to make the over-sized world in which children move a frightening one, Dante’s message here is that they can grow and overcome anything, including monsters and things that go bump in the night. Here we have a genuinely engaging and entertaining horror movie that will both inspire and frighten, and that’s no mean feat. Joe Dante is back, and whilst the ’80s kids rejoice, he gears up to scare a new generation of horror fans.
If you have a fear of clowns, this one might not be for you, otherwise this is a rare treat that you won’t want to miss.