12th Jul2019

‘The Hole in the Ground’ DVD Review

by Matthew Turner

Stars: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall | Written by Lee Cronin, Stephen Shields | Directed by Lee Cronin

hole-ground-dvd

Director Lee Cronin serves up some pleasingly old-fashioned supernatural scares in creepy Irish horror The Hole in the Ground.

Seána Kerslake (A Date for Mad Mary) stars as single mother Sarah O’Neill, who moves into a dilapidated farmhouse near a remote village in rural Ireland with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey), after fleeing an abusive relationship with the boy’s father. One night, Chris disappears and Sarah worries that he might have fallen into an enormous sinkhole that has suddenly opened up in the woods, especially when she finds one of his toys near the edge. The next day, Chris turns up safe and sound, but his behaviour is subtly changed and Sarah becomes increasingly worried that the boy is not her son.

Kerslake is excellent as Sarah, imbuing her with both toughness and vulnerability. She also generates touching chemistry with James Quinn Markey, who has a nice line in general creepiness, even when he’s being super-polite and ordinary. Support-wise, the film is largely a two-hander, but there are welcome cameos from James Cosmo and Aki Kaurismaki regular Kati Outinen as a pair of unsettling locals.

Co-written by Cronin and Stephen Shields, The Hole in the Ground is a traditional, even somewhat old fashioned changeling story at heart. To that end, the film tips its hand early on as to whether or not Sarah’s suspicions might be correct, while still leaving open the possibility that it might be all in her head.

As for the scares, Cronin knows how to orchestrate an effective jump moment and he’s also aware that time-honoured horror clichés can still be effective if correctly deployed. With that in mind, there’s at least one great out-of-your-seat moment that deserves to be experienced in the cinema with an audience. The Hole in the Ground also deserves credit for what it achieves without relying on special effects (giant sinkholes aside), as the scariest moments are very much in the performances and in the general staging – a scene in a kitchen, for example, is as effective for what we don’t see as what we do see.

Cronin is particularly strong on tone, creating a suitably oppressive atmosphere thanks to gloomy cinematography from Tom Comerford, effective production design from Conor Dennison and a haunting score from Stephen McKeon. In addition, the film has a subtle playful streak that works well, whether it’s little film reference in-jokes (such as Sarah wallpapering her walls with the hexagon pattern from The Shining’s Outlook Hotel) or quirky plot details, such as Sarah being suspicious of Chris because he now likes Parmesan cheese.

If there’s a problem with The Hole in the Ground, it’s only that the climax gets a little bogged down (literally) and is slightly underwhelming as a result. That minor quibble aside, this is a genuinely creepy horror that makes the most of its familiar premise and marks out Cronin as a genre talent to watch.

*** 3/5

The Hole in the Ground is out now on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital from Universal Pictures UK.

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