Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Hole in the Ground – Irish horror with a sinister sinkhole, spiders and spaghetti (in cinemas from 1 March)

Lee Cronin’s new film The Hole in the Ground begins with the film’s title overlaid on top of an upside-down drone shot, a hint of the disconcerting menace that will follow over the next 90 minutes.

I’m not a big fan of the horror genre of films, so I tend to sit in the cinema and analyse what’s happening to take my mind off the pain and surprise that is inevitably ahead. Cronin certainly makes good use of colour (specifically, the lack of it), flickering fluorescent lights, walls of mirrors, spindly spiders, creaking trees, heavy breathing and a great shot of a character being thrown across a room. Together with Stephen McKeon’s music, this all creates an anxious vibe that quickly builds up and sustains throughout the movie.
“Do you ever look at your kids and wonder if they’re yours?”
Single mum Sarah (Seána Kerslake) is leaving her old life behind and has moved to a remote rural location with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey). Her jeep collides with a hooded woman (Kati Outinen) standing in the middle of the road, annihilating her wing mirror, but leaving the frightening presence undamaged and unmoved. The same freaky figure reappears one last time with a piercing question that unlocks the second half of the film.

Seána’s confident characterisation of a young woman struggling to balance her own needs with the needs of a small child feels very authentic, and her depiction of psychosis and delusions is very unsettling. Young Markey delivers an other-worldly performance that accentuates a sense of strangeness. He also provides an unforgettable moment of spaghetti-eating, with horrific sights and sounds that will haunt audiences for months to come.

Out the back of their ramshackle house is a forest which contains an enormous sink hole, perhaps 30 metres wide. While we spend longer anticipating the horror that might lie in the hole than actually crawling underneath it, the underground beasts are fleeting but well executed.

There are some spine-shivering moments, and plenty of false leads that distract from the eventually-revealed horror central to the film. Not everything makes complete sense. The use of a digital camera is dubious – I want to get hold of batteries that last that long – and Sarah gets out of bed with freakishly-perfect combed hair. But the sense of unnoticed change and building apprehension works.

The Hole in the Ground is atmospheric and sinister rather than scary. It’s being screened from Friday 1 March in the Queen’s Film Theatre as well as Movie House and Omniplex cinemas.

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