The Hole Joe Dante

Last year, Marco Müller invited me to join a jury at the Venice Film Festival. Our job was to discern the very first “Persol 3-D Award for the Best 3-D Stereoscopic Film of the Year”—or, more precisely, the best 3-D film shown in Italy between January and September. We passed over a couple of fine animated features (at that point, Avatar was still a dark, threatening mass on the horizon) to give the award to a Venice premiere: Joe Dante’s The Hole, a modestly budgeted horror film that displays an effortless mastery of the third dimension.

Depth isn’t a slapped-on gimmick in The Hole, but a metaphor central to its plot. A single mom (Teri Polo) moves into a bland suburban home with her two sons, a teenager (Chris Massoglia) with an awakening interest in girls, and a little boy (Nathan Gamble) with some persistent father issues. When they find a tightly padlocked trap door in the basement of their new house, they enlist the help of the cute girl next door (Haley Bennett) to pry it open—unleashing a whole range of repressed anxieties, which are different for everyone who looks into the hole’s bottomless depths.

The Hole doesn’t have the frantic wit of Dante’s Gremlins 2 or the political import of his Small Soldiers, but it has something just as satisfying: a thorough understanding of the psychological underpinnings of the genre, placed in the service of warmly drawn characters and a sincerely told story. Its spirit is that of a child-centered fantasy film from the Fifties—like The Invisible Boy or The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T—that speaks to primal fears while maintaining a sense of fun and adventure. A genuinely humanist horror movie, The Hole is a useful enchantment that deserves to be seen.

Sales Agent: BOLD Films