A slow-burn indie horror that benefits a lot from its remote setting, foreboding aura & restrained camerawork in addition to steady direction & sincere performances, The Hole in the Ground is a gradually escalating parental nightmare that combines the elements of supernatural & psychological horror into one creepy delight yet fails to wrap itself up in a way that differentiates it from the norm.
The story follows a young woman who moves to the Irish countryside with her son in order to build a new life and escape her broken past. Her rented house is located next to a forest that houses a mysterious sinkhole at its center. Her life soon spirals out of control when an unexpected encounter with an unstable neighbor plants a seed of doubt in her mind that her son may not be her son after all.
Co-written & directed by Lee Cronin in what’s his feature film debut, The Hole in the Ground borrows heavily from the established horror film aesthetics but Cronin utilizes them efficiently to build an atmosphere that reeks of dread, paranoia & uncertainty, which in turn makes the scares quite effective. However, despite the first two acts treading an interesting route, the finale is rather underwhelming and feels like a cop-out.
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On the plus side, the desolate landscape brings an ominous vibe of its own into the mix while Cinematography ups the sinister touch of the surroundings by employing minimal lighting, slow zooms, earthy color tones & sedated camera movements. The relaxed pace is deliberate, providing characters enough room to breathe while allowing the disquieting chill to set up on its own. And the unnerving score plays its own tricks on the mind.
Leading from the front is Seána Kerslake as a young mother starting a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her son. Aptly articulating the paranoia & mistrust her character undergoes after noticing a few disturbing changes in her boy’s persona, Kerslake is more than convincing in the role. James Quinn Markey plays her son and is creepy without even trying. The rest do well with their roles, with James Cosmo leaving an instant impression.
Not bad at all for a debut feature as the director showcases much restraint & smart handling of available resources for the most part if not all, The Hole in the Ground derives terror from its uneasy ambiance instead of relying on jump scares and doesn’t provide an explanation for every single event either. But its third act is still a mess that brings the entire narrative down. In short, this slow-burn chiller may not score high marks for its lack of originality but it provides enough reasons for us to look forward to what Lee Cronin does next.