Hole, The (2012)

Starring: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble, Teri Polo, Bruce Dern, Quinn Lord, John DeSantis, Mark Pawson, Chord Overstreet, Chelsea Ricketts.

Director: Joe Dante
Rating: PG-13 (for frightening images, violence and some language.)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Home Video Release Date: October 2, 2012
North American Box Office: Not tracked.

Bold Films, BenderSpink, The Hole, and Big Air Studios.

Written by: Mark L. Smith
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(out of 5 stars)

With both his career and his films serving as fodder for a “Whatever happened to?” game, director Joe Dante finally sees his 2009 3D feature The Hole find the light of the day in North America.  After playing film festivals for a solid year-plus, The Hole ended up getting shelved domestically while being released everywhere else – from Italy to Kazakhstan to Malaysia and select Middle Eastern countries in 2010.  Even more strange was lead actor Chris Massoglia tweeting in early September 2012 that followers of his Twitter feed had actually alerted him to the fact that The Hole would be receiving a theatrical release on September 28, 2012.

When a film gets delayed, for often a far shorter period of time than this one, those delays can generally be attributed to films that test poorly or get panned on the festival circuit, become by-products of financial budgets having run amok, or have been branded and tagged as unmarketable and would be better served as a write-off on a studio’s balance sheet.  If you ask director Joe Dante (The Gremlins, The Gremlins 2, The ‘Burbs) however, he indicates that the delays actually came because he shot the film with actual 3D cameras and technology.  He elaborates that The Hole was shelved and bumped and delayed in North America because of the onslaught of post-converted high-profile and big-budgeted 3D movies, or “Fake 3D” as Dante calls it, taking up all the newly converted 3D theater screens.  Who knows if he is right, but when a film, a kids-oriented horror film no less, has been shelved for three years, I readily admit that I was expecting something awful.  Turns out, The Hole is decent, passable, interesting even.  And perhaps Dante is right – his film was simply shuffled through the deck, as opposed to being an embarrassment or career-ending project.

The Hole does feel lost in time, but back somewhere in the 1980s as opposed to merely three years ago, largely because of Joe Dante’s storytelling style, and the mere subject matter itself.  After moving to yet another new neighborhood with his single mom (Teri Polo), 17-year old Dane (Massoglia) and his 10-year old brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble), are finishing up their summer, looking to start all over yet again.  Mom is a nurse, working all kinds of different hours and shifts and so Dane is tasked with looking after Lucas a large amount of the time.

Becoming acclimated to their community and new home, Dane meets Julie (Haley Bennett), who shows him around town and becomes a fast friend.  Largely left to their own devices, Dane and Lucas stumble onto a padlocked and bolted down wooden door, embedded into the floor of their garage.  Naturally curious, they open the door and find a hole that seemingly leads to absolutely nowhere.  A bit spooked by the discovery and the fact that dropping something down the hole led to resistance and the loss of said object, Dane and Lucas lock the door.  Of course, strange things begin happening and when Julie is let in on the secret, things take an even darker and graver turn.

The Hole is not all that original a concept, and the true meaning behind what the hole symbolizes is a reach, but for a film that wants to straddle the line between the 1990s Goosebumps television movies and boundary-pushing PG-rated kids horror, The Hole finds its niche.  Chris Massoglia, perhaps known from Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant is a wooden, one-note actor, but his patterned and oddly emotionless performance becomes a little bit endearing over time.  Nathan Gamble, recognizable as the lead in 2011’s A Dolphin Tale and Haley Bennett, who played the aloof and sexually-charged pop star in Music And Lyrics, equip themselves well with the material.

Although…I did chuckle at the fact that Julie is presented as a really hot, comely, same age neighbor of Dane, who…you know…could help make a memorable summer for a 17-year old boy.  And yet, Mom has no qualms about leaving the two together for days and hours on end as Dane has seemingly no interest whatsoever in becoming a boyfriend to Julie whatsoever.  Not sure why, but I liked that element of the story.  But I digress…

As visions begin permeating their days and nights and becoming true and tangible, The Hole ramps up the intensity just enough to be compelling.  The Hole is essentially stylized after the 1987 cult-horror film The Gate, though the titular hole serves a much different purpose.  The scares are light, although not for more younger viewers, and the film probably has true effectiveness in its original 3D designs. (Note: I was only able to see the film in 2D).

After sitting for three years, The Hole was shown on 5 screens – four in the state of Georgia and one in Los Angeles, and then dumped into the home video market four days later.  I have no idea, with a production budget of just $12 million, why this film never got a shot, because it could have become a modest hit for all involved and perhaps restarted Joe Dante’s career.  Likewise, any success at all would have only been good for the careers of its three young actors, though Gamble and Bennett seem to have projects at the ready.

If you happen upon The Hole via Netflix, Redbox, Video on Demand, or the traditional video store around the corner, you will find a fairly light, small little throwback horror film, which gives viewers a decent time.  Well-intentioned with a simple desire to be entertaining, The Hole is far from perfect, but you can do far, far worse than this when it comes to 90 minutes of quick and easy entertainment.

SHOULD I SEE IT?
YES
  • If you have some knowledge of The Hole and have been aware of its troubled road to the big screen, well – here you go.  Check it out finally!
  • A PG-13 film, but not all that far removed from teen and tween-focused PG scary movies.  The difference here is largely the subject matter surrounding the father of two of the characters
  • This is easy to watch, easy to like, and a perfectly suitable mid-weekend afternoon watch for interested audiences.
NO
  • Seems stuck in a previous era, despite Joe Dante utilizing what was, in 2009, the finest 3D technology.  The film is not released in 3D on home video, so the entire 3D circumstance is now a moot point.
  • Chris Massoglia is wooden, stiff, and fails to emote any range at all.  To some, he will be endearing.  But to others, his inability to bring his character off the page, especially when he is the lead actor in the film, is aggravating and may cause people to dismiss the film.
  • There are no chills, no scares really.  Those seeking something more intense and aggressive, may want to revisit some of the horror classics that emanated from he 1980s – the decade where Joe Dante made his mark and his Gremlins became a household name.
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