May 21, 2019
Welcome back to one of the first Certified Fresh films from this year to hit streaming services. We track every Certified Fresh film that gets released in theaters, just waiting to jump on the opportunity when they become available at home. Today’s film is another Irish horror film, but this time distributed by A24, and currently streaming on Amazon Prime. For a few other films involving the Irish film scene, check out Sunday’s throwback review for “A Dark Song” (Episode #489), along with Ryan L. Terry’s review for “The Favourite” (Episode #379) and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” (Episode #149). And if you have any suggestions, definitely let us know over social media.
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Here we go!
Today’s movie is “The Hole In The Ground”, the Irish horror drama distributed by A24, directed by Lee Cronin, and written for the screen in collaboration with Stephen Shields. The film follows Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake), and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey), who have moved to a new town nestled in a valley after trouble involving Chris’ father. While exploring the area, Chris runs off into the forest, and Sarah finds him near a giant hole in the ground. But is it him?
I have a strong love for films based on European folklore. Films like “The Ritual” (Episode #045), “November” (Episode #157), and “Apostle” (Episode #287) take local myths and either place them within their historical context or our own modern context. Myth and lore were always meant to communicate between generations, sometimes about our origins or history, sometimes about rules for survival or self-conduct, and sometimes because imaginations ran wild and invented terrors that really represent something about ourselves and our psychologies rather than the world. It’s a rich well from which to draw content, and “The Hole in the Ground” makes great use of both ancient myth and recent history.
We find out early in “The Hole in the Ground” about changelings, a Pan-European myth about creatures who steal another person’s form, and try to take their victim’s place in society, very similar to the premise of “Us” (Episode #449). It also makes use of a more recent story (relatively speaking) from 1895, when Michael Cleary murdered his wife, claiming she was a changeling. The film contains a similar, but more recent fictional case that causes Sarah to question her son’s identity, which by itself creates dual themes of parents sometimes wondering what their children have become, and parents wondering what horrors they are capable of, as expertly shown in “The Babadook”. On top of all this, Sarah is recovering from a nasty head wound, presumably from Chris’ father, that requires medication to sleep, so we’re never really sure if there are changelings, or who might be a changeling.
Lee Cronin does a great job working with Seána Kerslake and James Quinn Markey to create and maintain a feeling of paranoia about the mother/son relationship, through a combination of great acting, practical effects, and smart video and sound editing. Cronin also does a magnificent job of capturing an intense feeling of claustrophobia when, as one might imagine with a title like “The Hole in the Ground”, we finally enter the hole and its excessively cramped interior. Cronin hits all the right notes with the film, which makes it a well-made film. But the film also struggles with a formula-driven plot structure, which makes it effective, but also limits its overall potential in an oversaturated genre.
“The Hole In The Ground” is an Irish folklore horror film, playing with themes of trust and paranoia in a modern country setting. Seána Kerslake and James Quinn Markey work well together on screen, and with director Lee Cronin to make an effective, if somewhat formulaic film. Horror fans, especially those interested in folklore, will definitely enjoy this film and should not miss it. Everyone else might be interested, if they don’t mind a few scares and some intense dread.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88% (CERTIFIED FRESH)
One Movie Punch: 8.3/10
“The Hole In The Ground” (2019) is rated R and is currently playing on Amazon Prime.