Director / Co-Writer Lee Cronin & Actor Seána Kerslake, ‘The Hole in the Ground’

One night, Sarah’s young son disappears into the woods behind their rural home. When he returns, he looks the same, but his behavior grows increasingly disturbing. Sarah begins to believe that the boy who returned may not be her son at all.

David Prendeville chats to director / co-writer Lee Cronin and actor Seána Kerslake about their horror The Hole in the Ground.

 

Lee, can we start with where the idea for the film came from?

Lee: It wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It was a combination of things. The first little scene of it all was a news story I read about a man sitting in his armchair in Florida. A sinkhole emerged and took him in and he died. I thought that was terrifying, to have the rug pulled in such a fantastical way. That spawned the title The Hole in the Ground which was then rolling around and around in my mind.

At the same time I was developing a story about a mother and a son and a situation of doubt between them after a trauma in their lives –  it was more a concept. The combination of these things over a number of months came together. It felt like the sinkhole that was rolling around my mind would be a great metaphor for the situation that this mother and son found themselves in. The actual development of the film was kind of a slow. Sometimes you have these lightbulb moments when an idea comes fully formed. With this one, it was more a kind of slow creep of different things coming together.

 

Seána, what was it that attracted you to the role?

Seana: I think the challenge of being in a horror movie but to make it feel real to me and real to the character – that challenge was attractive and one I thought that we could rise to. As well, a lot of the physical stuff was a huge draw, like having to be physically ready to go underground and do the fight scenes… They were huge pulls for me. And, of course, the story. I was always interested in that kind of concept of somebody you know not being who you think they are, or slightly off. There’s the idea there – do you ever really know people fully.

 

Were there other horror films you were looking at as reference points – either directorially or performance-based?

Seana: Lee had given me a list of some stuff to watch, but I did steer clear of it because there was some female performances that I knew if I watched then I’d feel maybe I’m going to take from those performances. For me, I just had to be totally emerged in this script rather than other ones.

Lee: We had our  influences and we discussed them, but we didn’t do a deep dive where we were trying to necessarily analyse other work in any way and emulate that. We were trying to be as fresh as we could be in our own way. The reason I wanted Seána in the role was because she was very different to what I had imagined this character would actually be from the get-go. I wasn’t trying to impress upon her or anybody else’s performance necessarily. It’s a case of what I saw in Seána I thought was going to challenge me and challenge the character on the page. That was the way to go about it. We just jumped in and went for it.

 

How did the casting of James [Quinn Markey] come about?

Lee: When I met Seána, she was the first performer that I met for the role, we just stopped the hunt right away. We sat down, had a coffee and decided it was right and offered her the role. But when you’re working with young performances you have to do a greater due diligence. You’re not just getting to know them, you’re trying to understand them a little more, meet their parents, get a sense of how this will all work. Especially you have a sudden responsibility when you’re making a horror film and you’re bringing an 8 year-old out on set to be part of that and to be an object of fear in the movie. So the process was a slower one. You have a casting agent that goes out and looks at a lot of different performers and then makes shortlists. You’ll see someone on the shortlist you’ll like and make mental notes. You might dig back into the longlist and look at someone else. You build these little groups and you’re always analysing and looking at what it is you want. What’s really interesting about James is that he’s not in any way a creepy kid at all. He has this ability to just step into different subtle places. But yeah, it was a long process. We did chemistry tests with Seána with a couple of different young actors. We definitely went through it. It’s the one decision, when you’re casting someone that young, that you can only make with so much confidence until you turnover and roll camera on the first day – despite all the rehearsals, because it’s a different environment once you’re on the set, so you are kind of slightly crossing your fingers. Thankfully it worked out great – he’s a little superstar.

 

Seana, the physicality of the role that you mentioned earlier, how did it compare in reality to what you imagined it to be like?

Seana: It was pretty spot on! It was tough. Brendan [Byrne – sfx coordinator] and his whole team were so amazing. It was exciting to be part of that, but tough work.

Lee: I had said to Seána in advance that it was going to be tough. We didn’t pretend that it wasn’t going to be very physically challenging – that it would be something very different for her to do. Seána had to dive in and do some pretty serious stuff. I don’t want give away any spoilers but later on in the film there are certain physical challenges that are done for real. There’s no hiding.

Seána: I think in hindsight I go “yeh, that was fine” but in the doing off it there were certain moments where I was like ‘suck it up and do it’ or else there’s moments where I’m feeling a little wary –  not so much scared – I’d never say it because I knew Lee wanted me to be scared in parts of it!

Lee: Show no weakness.

Seána: Yeh. I’m like, I’m not giving him that! So in my head, I’m thinking ‘go for it!’ But it was a lot of fun – hard work, but a lot of fun.

Lee: Good hard work.

 

The Hole in the Ground is in cinemas from 1st March 2019.

 

 

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Irish Film Review: The Hole in the Ground

Dir: Lee Cronin  Wri:Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Geneva Robertson-Dworet  Pro: Conor Barry, John Keville, Benoit Roland, Ulla Simonen  DOP: Tom Comerford. Prod Des: Conor Dennison  Ed: Colin Campbell  CAST: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Kati Outinen, James Cosmo, Simone Kirby

 

Sarah (Kerslake) moves to rural Ireland with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). Through conversations between mother and son, we get hints at Sarah’s past abuse at the hands of Chris’ father with oblique references to an “accident” which left Sarah with a scar on her forehead. One night when Chris runs off into the forest and near a bizarre, somewhat otherworldly sinkhole, Sarah starts to notice strange changes in his behaviour. Her anxieties aren’t helped by a mysterious neighbour, considered crazy by the locals, Noreen (Outinen), who screams at Sarah that Chris is “not your boy”. It is revealed that Noreen rejected and possibly even murdered her own child decades before, under a similar idea that he had been replaced by an evil force.

Having received rave notices at its premiere in Sundance and having been picked up for US distribution by the mammoth A24, Lee Cronin’s supernatural horror and feature debut arrives for its homecoming with much fanfare and is unlikely to disappoint fans of the genre. It draws on horror tropes of creepy children and the fears of parenthood to consistently entertaining effect. It’s a film that touches on some dark ideas and resonant themes but is also keen to deliver a rollercoaster ride for the audience. Cronin and his editor Colin Campbell ensure there’s not an ounce of flab on this taut, decidedly effective genre-piece.

Seána Kerslake reaffirms her status as one of Ireland’s biggest acting talents with a performance of complexity, subtlety, charisma and no shortage of physicality. This looks like another step on her way to inevitable international stardom. She is ably supported by Markey who strikes just the right note of sinister unreadability. There are also fine, nuanced supporting turns by Outinen, who makes something more of the creepy neighbour character, and Cosmo, who essays a lifetime of confliction and tragedy in tremendously naturalistic terms.

Tom Comerford’s murky cinematography perfectly captures a sense of the alienation of rural isolation. There’s also terrific use of music. Indeed, the superb opening credits sequence, with a neat nod to The Shining, set up an overwhelming sense of dread from the get-go through the superb camerawork and Stephen McKeon’s deafening score. Cronin also bravely refuses to unwrap all the films mysteries, retaining an ambiguity that allows the audience to draw their own conclusions.

A superbly acted, lean and highly entertaining horror film, and a fine feature debut by Cronin.

 

David Prendeville

89 minutes
15A (see IFCO for details)
The Hole in the Ground is released 1st March 2019

 

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‘The Hole In The Ground’ Praised after World Premiere at Sundance

Irish feature The Hole In The Ground receives critical acclaim after World Premiere at Sundance Film Festival.

Irish filmmaker Lee Cronin’s feature debut The Hole In The Ground premiered at the renowned Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah over the weekend where it was met with overwhelmingly positive reactions from critics and audiences alike.

Starring Seána Kerslake (A Date For Mad Mary), James Quinn Markey (Vikings), James Cosmo (T2 Trainspotting), Simone Kirby (Jimmy’s Hall), Steve Wall (An Klondike) and Kati Outinen (Le Havre), Cronin co-wrote the film with Stephen Shields.

Speaking about having his film premiere at Sundance, director Lee Cronin said: “It’s been a whirlwind since we touched down in Park City. The wave of support and positivity around the film has really helped quell the nerves that you cannot escape when premiering your debut feature at Sundance.”

Critical reviews have compared the film to Hereditary, The Witch and The Babadook, praised Seána Kerslake’s performance and are touting it to be one of the great horrors of the year:

“Seána Kerslake is a star” Variety

“The likes of Hereditary, The Witch and The Babadook have premiered [at Sundance] in recent years, going on to be some of the most talked-about horrors of the year – and you can now add the nerve-shredding The Hole in the Ground to that illustrious list….. say hello to the first great horror of 2019” Digital Spy

“The Hole in the Ground takes a simple, curious, highly cinematic premise and never over-explains or bombards you with flashy set pieces but rather, sustains its 90-minute runtime by creating two well developed, engaging characters, letting you live with them, and then all slowly slip into the darkness and paranoia together.” Collider

“Sarah deserves a spot among the great heroines of horror” BirthMoviesDeath

“Cronin’s film has the strength to strike fear in the heart of hardened horror fans. Coupled with incredible performances, this makes his debut feature by far the best horror film of the year so far and one of the greatest Irish horror films ever.” Starburst Magazine

The Hole In The Ground follows Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) who is trying to escape her broken past by building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.

The film shot on location in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow and was produced by Conor Barry and John Keville for Savage Productions with Benoit Roland and Ulla Simonen for Wrong Men and MADE. The film was funded by Screen Ireland, the BAI and Headgear Films with support coming from Wallimages and the Finnish Film Foundation.

Wildcard Distribution will be releasing the film in Irish cinemas from Friday 1st March.

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‘The Hole In The Ground’ in Cinemas March 1st

 

Lee Cronin’s The Hole In The Ground will be released in Irish and UK cinemas on Friday, 1st March.

The film which will have its world premiere at the renowned Sundance Film Festival later this month is Cronin’s feature debut which he co-wrote with Stephen Shields.  It stars Séana Kerslake (A Date For Mad Mary), James Quinn Markey (Vikings), James Cosmo (T2 Trainspotting), Simone Kirby (Jimmy’s Hall), Steve Wall (An Klondike) and Kati Outinen (Le Havre).

Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Séana Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.

Speaking about the cinema release, director Lee Cronin said: “I’m so excited to finally be bringing The Hole in the Ground to my home crowd. It’s a film with a uniquely unsettling Irish identity, and one that I hope will terrify people both when they are in the cinema, and long after they go home and turn the lights out. A short month after it’s world premiere at Sundance, Irish cinema-goers will be right there as the first in the world to be able to see the film as a big screen experience. Horror is best served in a dark room with lots of people crawling on edge together. We made a movie with that in mind”.

The Hole in the Ground was shot on location in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow and was produced by Conor Barry and John Keville for Savage Productions with Benoit Roland and Ulla Simonen for Wrong Men and MADE.  The film was funded by Screen Ireland, the BAI and Headgear Films with support coming from Wallimages and the Finnish Film Foundation.

Wildcard Distribution will be releasing the film in Ireland.

Vertigo Releasing will be distributing the film in the UK.

 

 

 

http://filmireland.net/2019/01/02/irish-films-to-look-out-for-in-2019/

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Five Irish Films to Screens at Sundance

 

Five Screen Ireland funded films have been selected to have their World premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.

The line-up includes one new Irish feature, Lee Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground starring Irish actress Seana Kerslake; two international co-productions, Sophie Hyde’s Animals and Sacha Polak’s Dirty God; alongside two Irish documentaries, Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell’s Gaza and Kim Longinotto’s Shooting the Mafia.

Commenting on the Irish Sundance selections, Screen Ireland Chief Executive James Hickey said: “We are very proud to have five titles set to screen at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and we would like to extend our congratulations to the filmmakers. The selection process is one of the most competitive in the world, so to have such a strong line-up 2019 edition festival is a fantastic achievement for our industry. Two out of the twelve documentaries in the international line-up, selected from all over the world, are Irish.”

From psychological horrors and harrowing portraits of social crises to celebratory and intimate tales of female friendship, these films act as exemplars of the diverse and varied slate Screen Ireland will present in 2019. Sundance is the largest independent film festival in North America and provides an invaluable platform to launch these films into the US market and beyond.

 

Brooklyn,The LobsterSing StreetCalvaryThe Guard,School Life and It’s Not Yet Dark comprise just some of the major Irish films of the last decade to have screened at Sundance, with the festival presenting a consistently strong line-up of Irish titles down through the years.

 

Speaking about The Hole in the Ground’s selection, director Lee Cronin: “It’s a privilege to bring The Hole in the Ground to the Sundance Film Festival for its World Premiere this January. A hell of a lot of extremely talented people worked tirelessly to make the movie a reality, so I’m delighted that its creators, funders and supporters can celebrate the perfect launch-pad in Utah. Personally, I’m excited to bring my horror story to the big screen, and I can’t wait for Irish audiences to see it when it’s released in cinemas in the new year.”

 

Co-Director of  GAZA, Garry Keane said: “On behalf of my co-director colleague Andrew McConnell and I, it is a huge honour for our filmGAZA to be selected for the Sundance Film Festival 2019 in the World Cinema Documentary Competition. This is not only a professional Everest for us both, but even more so, it is a clear testament to the resilience and bravery of our contributors who have shared their lives with us in this beautiful and much misunderstood place. It is a privilege to have spent time with them and to have had the chance to bring their stories of hope and survival in one of the most unique places on earth to the world’s most prestigious documentary festival.”

 

 

ABOUT THE FILMS

The Hole in the Ground

Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Séana Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.

The Hole in the Ground is directed by Lee Cronin and stars Seána Kerslake (A Date for Mad Mary) with the title produced by John Keville and Conor Barry for Savage Productions.

 

Animals
A fierce and unapologetic celebration of female friendship, Animals is an intimate, funny and bittersweet examination of the challenges of turning talent into action, and being a modern woman, with faults, longings and competing desires.

Animals is an Irish/Australian co-production, directed by Sophie Hyde, with Cormac Fox producing for Ireland’s Vico Films alongside Sarah Brocklehurst, Rebecca Summerton and Sophie Hyde. The film starsHolliday Grainger (My Cousin Rachel) and Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development).

Dirty God
Dirty God is a powerful film about motherhood, courage and self-acceptance. Jade is a young mother recovering from an acid attack that has left her with severe facial burns. Her face has been reconstructed, but her beauty is gone. Distanced from her daughter, Jade finds solace in the hidden world of online liaisons where she uncovers the passion and connection she’s craved. But when her life is turned upside down once more, those around can do little to halt her descent. As her family life and friendships start to crumble, Jade takes drastic action, finally finding the path back to her daughter and herself.

The film is an Irish/Dutch/UK/Belgian co-production, with Conor Barry and John Keville on board as Irish producers for Savage Productions, alongside Viking Film (NL), Emu Films (UK) and A Private View (BE).

GAZA
This documentary brings together an eloquent, resilient, funny and courageous group of souls, on whose lives the world lens is often trained, without ever capturing their true essence; their struggle, survival, resilience and sense of family, which goes to the very heart of humanity and human nature. The film unfolds a portrait of the ordinary people of Gaza who attempt to lead meaningful lives beyond the rubble of perennial conflict. Free of the cliché of news reportage, GAZA reveals a complex land of intrigue and highlight the beauty of the human condition and the warmth and humour that lies bubbling beneath the surface of this truly remarkable place.

The documentary is directed and produced by Garry Keane and Andrew McConnell for Real Films.

Shooting the Mafia
In sharp contrast to the all-pervasive romanticised and glamorised media image of the Sicilian Mafia, Kim Longinotto’s feature documentary Shooting the Mafia, unflinchingly explores the stark reality of life, and death, under the oppressive yoke of the Corleonesi Mafia. Photographer Letizia Battaglia stood up to the Mafia and it is through her lens that we enter this world of ritualised slaughter, omertà, semi-religious oppression and feudal control. The scale of the mafia’s brutality and power is revealed through a combination of rare archive footage, newsreel and personal photographs and memories. The power of Letizia’s photography and the bravery and dedication of people like her helped to finally bring to an end the brutal reign of a bunch of small town thugs who’s reign of fear reached as far as the Italian presidency.

The documentary is directed by Kim Longinotto and produced by Niamh Fagan for Lunar Pictures.

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival runs from 24 Jan – 3 Feb in Park City, Utah. 

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Lee Cronin’s ‘The Hole in the Ground’ Acquired for Distribution

Wildcard Distribution have acquired the Irish distribution rights of Lee Cronin’s horror film The Hole in the Ground.  Principal photography has finished and the film will hit cinemas across the country in 2018.  

 

The Hole in the Ground is Lee Cronin’s feature debut which he also co-wrote with Stephen Shields.  Shot on location in Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow over the summer, it stars Seána Kerslake (A Date For Mad Mary), James Quinn Markey (Vikings), James Cosmo (T2 Trainspotting), Simone Kirby (Jimmy’s Hall), Steve Wall (An Klondike) and Kati Outinen (Le Havre).

 

Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Sna Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.

 

Speaking about the film’s release, director Lee Cronin said:  “I’m delighted that cinema audiences across Ireland will get to see The Hole in the Ground next year.  It was our aim to capture a really tense and atmospheric story and we hope that people enjoy and respond to it as much as we enjoyed making it.”
 
The Hole in the Ground is produced by Conor Barry and John Keville for Savage Productions with Benoit Roland and Ulla Simonen for Wrong Men and MADE – the film was funded by the Irish Film Board / Bord Scannán na hÉireann, the BAI and Headgear Films with support coming from Wallimages and the Finnish Film Foundation. Bankside Films are handling world sales.
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Seána Kerslake to Star in ‘The Hole In The Ground’

 

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Lee Cronin’s directorial debut, The Hole In The Ground,  will star Seána Kerslake (A Date For Mad Mary) as a young single mother who is trapped between rationality and the unexplained as she becomes convinced her little boy has been transformed by something sinister from the depths of a mysterious sinkhole.

John Keville and Conor Barry of Savage Productions will produce, with Benoit Roland of Wrong Men in Belgium and Ulla Simonen of MADE in Finland as co-producers. The film is to be funded by The Irish Film Board with the participation of Head Gear Films.

Shooting is due to get underway in the summer.

 

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