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Star - Joe Dante
Genre - Horror
Run Time - 92 minutes
Certificate -PG 13
Country - USA
Blockbuster Rental - £1.49 per night
Amazon - £5.33 DVD (£6.42 Blue Ray)
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As its Halloween this month it's time for some horror movie reviews! The Hole (2009) is not to be confused with the British psycho thriller The Hole (2001). Where as the British one also featured a foreboding hole this one (2009) didn't star the extremely annoying Keira Knightley and so wins hands down.
The director is Joe Dante, the creator of The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, amongst others but nothing since. Like Spielberg he is able to merge kids in the horror genre and still keep the certification down, PG13 here. But he went out of favor as the horror genre got nasty and adult and so no longer needed. It's nice to see him back.
* Chris Massoglia as Dane Thompson
* Haley Bennett as Julie Campbell
* Nathan Gamble as Lucas Thompson
* Teri Polo as Susan Thompson
* Bruce Dern as Creepy Carl
* Quinn Lord as Annie Smith
* John DeSantis as Monster Dad
* Chelsea Ricketts as Whitney
* Chord Overstreet as Adam
=== The Plot===
17-year-old Dane Thompson (Chris Massoglia) and his little 10-year-old brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) have moved from Brooklyn to the quiet town of Bensenville, mum (Teri Polo) needing a new start without dad (John DeSantis) who went to jail a while back for something terrible.
The brothers befriend pretty girl next door Julie (Haley Bennett) to waste away their summer days. Poking around in the basement the boys discover a trapdoor with several locks along each side. Boys being boys, off comes the locks, a bad idea as there is a hole which appears to be bottomless. When Julie arrives, they lower a video camera into the hole. They look at the recording and see static but an eye appearing on the screen when they momentarily look away from the viewfinder. No need to lock it then.
'I know what you've got. You've got a gateway to hell under your house. That is soooo cool!'
Over the next few days, each child experiences strange events. When a little girl appears in the boys' home they realize that the hole maybe the portal and so time to close it, confirmed when the lid is reopened the next day but not by them as the girl slithers back into the hole. It's clearly malevolent and so they track down the houses previous owner to try and close it for good.
An old man was that previous tenant (Bruce Dern), now cowering in an abandoned factory under hundreds of lights and lamps. When the kids tell him that they have opened the hole, he berates them for releasing the evil inside, frantically coloring in a notepad with blackness. Whatever is in there is now getting out.
Dane: We just want to know if you built the hole, and what it's about.
Creepy Carl: Nobody built the hole! The hole has been there since the world's first scream.
Ok, it's not a patch on Super 8 and many more in the genre but welcome all the same. The style of film will be instantly recognizable to anyone who grew up watching movies in the 1980s and refreshing to see it back. There was once a time when horror was fun and creepy and not just about violence, exploitation and shock, I suppose the uncensored YouTube era offering all of these things forced change for the worse. When you can see beheadings on Facebook you do wonder where society is going.
The Hole is very much from the halcyon days and deliberately so. Saying that it's not that scary, presumably as it's aimed at kids, tapping into their fears of the monster under the bed. But opening the gateway to hell movies are always worth a look and The Gate one of my favorites, this clearly a tribute to.
The Hole is not that bad but very much formulaic after an ok start after the central premise is set up and drifts a bit in the middle as the kids understand what the hole is up to and the confrontation to come. It just needed a little more oomph in the ending.
It cost $12 million to make but scraped $10.8 million back to date so a bit of a flop. Presumably word - of - mouth killed it stone dead as it was not violent enough to feed our young adults veracious need for that style of horror. But for me I think its ideal for younger kids over Halloween and enough nostalgia there for mum and dad to let the kids watch it with them. It no scary than the video games they no doubt play.
===BlueRay and Extras===
Originally a 3D cinema movie the BlueRay transformation is fine. It's not a film that requires too much iridescent showing off but is adopted from the cinema version to avoid thrusting at the screen. Clowns and toys coming alive and crawling towards the screen are always scary though. I don't think BlueRay really offers much unless you have a cool TV and sit the correct distance from it. For some of the bigger screens you need to sit in your garden or street, apparently.
The BlueRay offers some decent extras.
- The Keyholder -
Interviews of cast & crew about Creepy Carl and Bruce Dern, edited together with clips from the movie.
- Relationships -
More interviews and talk about the plot and its central theme of the hole to hell etc.
- Making of The Hole -
Self-explanatory promotional piece.....interviews and lots of footage you have just seen with actors gushing on top.
- A Peek Inside -
Special effects stuff about shooting the movie in 3D.
- Still Gallery -
A small collection of production stills.
Imdb.com - 5.7/10.0 (13,452votes)
Metacrtic.com - 63% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 80% critic's approval
Los Angles Times -'No one understands that giddy rush of sugar buzz cinema better than director Joe Dante'.
The Guardian -' It's the kind of knockabout, kid's-eye-view comedy-horror that hasn't been made for a while, with some nasty, frightening touches, but expertly encased in a distinctive family-movie aesthetic'.
The Daily Express -'Scary fun for young teens'.
Grave Cinema -'A refreshing example of how to make a film for a specific demographic the right way. ... Smart, scary and fun as hell'.
The Scotsman -' With the 1980s increasingly looking like a golden age for live-action family blockbusters, Joe Dante, the decade's most subversive practitioner of the form, makes a welcome return...'
FilmComment -' A thorough understanding of the psychological underpinnings of the genre'.
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The Hole is the latest film by Joe Dante, who brought us the classic kids films, Gremlins and Small Soldiers. Known for infusing a more adult flavour to his kids films, there was a devilish hint of horror in both of aforementioned works. However, with The Hole, it seems that he has lost a little of that spark as the end result seems lacking that extra punch that Dante was known for.
The story opens up with a single mother bringing her two kids, Dane and Lucas, to a new home. It becomes clear that they have been moving houses multiple times for some unknown reason, but the mother seems insistent that this will be the last time. The two brothers seem to be distant until they discover a strange trapdoor in their basement, complete with six padlocks. Once they unlock it, they find that it seems to be a never-ending hole of darkness that defies physics. They attempt to close the hole, but something is inside it which wants to come out...
The biggest issue with The Hole is that most of the 90 minutes running time seems to be pre-occupied with setting up the suspense and tension, rather than dealing with the threat. It also feels rather predictable in places, with some of the 'twists' fairly well telegraphed in advance. Aside from it's 3D effects, there is little originality in the film, which is disappointing considering the prior movies that Joe Dante had made were so ground-breaking. The film seems to be very similar to the "Goosebumps" and "Are you Afraid of the Dark" TV series that ran on Nickelodeon. It's very tame 'horror' where it's mainly suspense and little actual scares. Some of the reviews I'd read before watching said that it was scary enough to make adults jump out of their skin, but I didn't feel particularly scared during any scenes.
The storyline seemed reminiscent to Jumanji, with the new family moving into the strange house, unaware of the danger residing within. However, instead of the visually dynamic scenes of animals whooshing out of a board game, we have a few scary nightmarish creatures coming out of a hole. I feel that the film was missing a lot of potential in limiting itself down in the way it did. Rather than attempting to use a horror-style, perhaps a full-blown fantasy element would have worked better.
The two boys were well acted, as was the cute girl next door. The only famous name in the film was their mother, played by "Meet the Fockers" star, Teri Polo, but she had very little to do in the film, only really appearing to be an adult influence and a break in the spookiness. There was a neat cameo from Dick Miller, who has appearing in every one of Joe Dante's films, most notably in Gremlins as Mr Futterman, the crazy old man harassed by the Gremlins.
Overall, I found the film to be dull in places and lacking in originality. It seemed better suited to an hour long TV movie, rather than a full theatrical release. The 3D effects were impressive and there were numerous shots that took advantage of this, but beyond being a showcase for how 3D graphics have improved, there is very little story here.
>Plays in 2D or 3D (3D TV & 3D Blu-Ray Player Required for 3D playback)
>Behind the Scenes Documentary
The Hole 2009
3D Blu Ray review
Lucas and his older brother Dane have moved into a new home with their mother, whilst exploring their new surroundings they discover a padlocked trap door in the basement and eager to discover what it is covering they set about finding the keys so they can take a look. Once they finally manage to get the trap door opened they are surprised to see that the hole appears to be bottomless, they can see and hear nothing but feel as is if there's something wrong. Enlisting the help of their new neighbour, Julie, the trio attempt to discover what the hole is all about and more importantly why it is there however they soon come to realise that there are certain things that should remain covered and their basement hole is one of them...
I've recently upgraded my TV and Blu Ray player to ones that support 3D technology so eager to try out a few films I added "The Hole" amongst a few others to my Lovefilm rental list. This was the first 3D Blu Ray I'd seen on my new television and I have to say that I'm very impressed, not necessarily with the film itself but more of how it is presented and how it is displayed on a 3D TV.
The plot to the film is very formulaic and predictable, you know from the films summary that there's going to be some bad things unleashed once the hole is uncovered and true to form there were. I can usually cope with a predictable storyline if the action or special effects make up for the lack of originality but in the case of this film it's all too safe and all too watered down to be remotely frightening. I think the film is intended to be a family horror film along the lines of Gremlins and indeed the director responsible for that 80's classic, Joe Dante is the director here but instead of giving us a film that combines some nice jump moments with a bit of family fun instead it all feels rather tame and all too "Disney". This version of the film carries a 12 certificate which I do think is appropriate, there's nothing too strong here that would offend or upset older children and they might enjoy the few and far between scares that appear here and there. Older viewers might find the film to be a bit flat in all honesty, the plot doesn't really go anywhere and I do think that perhaps it was a little too safe for me to fully enjoy but I persevered with it simply because I was enjoying the 3D elements. All of the cast are decent enough, the film's dialogue isn't terribly demanding but the lead actors act and react in all the right places and say their lines with conviction where needed and as already mentioned the plot follows a predictable path. There is a nice use of a scary clown which is always good (if not overly familiar now) in horror films, it looks creepy enough to instill a fear of clowns into the younger viewers psyche (I blame "Poltergerist" for my fear of clowns, I wonder if "The Hole" will have the same effect to some other people?) and I did think the sequences it appeared in were quite effectively done.
There's nothing really to either despise or praise with the film in all honesty, it's well presented, well acted but formulaic and really nothing new. The saving grace as far as I was concerned with this film was the use of 3D as I do think it was utilised really well and it gave me the chance to experience my very first 3D film at home that wasn't presented on DVD with cardboard red and green glasses.
**3D Blu Ray**
I suppose it was just too tempting for the producers of this film not to take advantage of 3D technology given the fact that they could shoot some scenes featuring the cast dangling things down a great big, whacking hole which in turn would look as if they were coming out of the TV screen. 3D is gimmicky, I realise that and there are some sequences in this film that were obviously filmed just to take advantage of this technology but what I liked best of all about this new wave of 3D is that everything has a layered look to it and it really is like watching a holograph on screen. Things that are in the background of some shots are not as prominent as items or people in the foreground and rather than everything appearing flat as it does in 2 dimensions on a regular TV in 3D Blu Ray format there is a real depth to the picture with stunning crystal-clear clarity. I was sceptical about 3D but have to say that after watching a few films now in this format that I'm absolutely converted and think it's rather revolutionary, films presented in full 1080p High Definition really sets Blu Rays apart from DVDs and the picture quality of The Hole is flawless. The images are bright and clear and even thought they are slightly dampened by the 3D glasses you have to wear to watch the film the overall picture quality remains fantastic. The sound quality is just as good, background noise doesn't interfere with what the characters are saying and there are never any instances of muffling or distortions to the voice track and on a large screen television you really do get a true cinematic experience.
As this is specifically a Blu Ray review I have to mention the Extras on "The Hole" and along with the option to select a chapter, turn subtitles on and alter the sound output there are a few extra features:
Making of The Hole: A 12 minute behind the scenes look at the special effects used and the actors/crew members thoughts on the process. Not terribly interesting in all honesty but I watched it.
Interviews with the Cast and Crew: Running for around 14 minutes this is more interesting, as the principal cast share their thoughts of the film and how they got on together. It's a nice watch and a good inclusion on the disc
Behind the Scenes: Another chance to get an idea of what the film makers intentions were and how the cast and crew reacted to certain scenes. Again, quite interesting for what it is but not essential viewing I wouldn't have thought.
**Price and My rating**
At the moment this 3D Blu Ray is available to buy brand new from Amazon for £8.99, mine was a rental copy (with the exact same extras as the retail version) from Lovefilm and having watched it now I don't think I'd watch it again. It is probably best suited to older children or teenagers but for around £9.00 I think it's probably worth that as it could well appeal. As far as my rating goes, I thought the film was probably worth 2 stars but the 3D effects add such a lot in terms of the visual experience that I'm going to award a 'good' 3 star rating here. It wasn't my favourite film but it passed an hour and half on and overall there's just enough going for it to make me think it's recommendable.
Thanks for reading my review.