The Hole (12A, 92 mins)
Director: Joe Dante
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Sure, Innerspace was fun and Gremlins 2 had its moments, but outwith forgettable efforts like Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Dante has more or less been working on TV ever since. Which is a shame, because he proves with The Hole that he’s still more than capable of making a cracking family horror, albeit one with a distinctly 80s vibe.
Gremlins, along with another 80s horror classic, Poltergeist, was produced by Steven Spielberg, and The Hole is a film that seems to have his hand all over it. So it’s a surprise to learn he’s not actually involved given the Spielbergian setup of a single mother moving with her two sons to a new small town.
The boys are Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble) who discover a trapdoor in the floor of their basement not long after they move in that has a tendency to open by itself and seems to be bottomless. It’s not long before its contents and secrets are causing all manner of terrifying incidents and the result is a very well paced adventure that builds and escalates steadily, though it doesn’t quite unleash the funhouse you might be expecting, preferring to go even darker and stray into deeper themes that tap into childhood psychological trauma.
The relationship between Dane and Lucas of brothers who spend most of their time tormenting each other is wonderfully drawn and there are neat cameos as well as some nice updates on Gremlins gags. What lets it down is the 3D effects that are pretty much redundant for a good hour in the middle and then underutilised when it comes time for the action climax.
But Dante knows exactly how to deliver scares and fun in equal measure, although The Hole probably does lean more towards frights than frolics. In fact it’s profoundly creepy and really quite intense in places and though it has a child-friendly rating, be warned that youngsters could be terrified. Coulrophobes need not apply, with the scariest movie clown since Poltergeist terrorising Lucas in what is probably the best scene in the best horror of the year.