The Hole in the Ground continues a core theme of recent horror films, playing with mother and child relationships in a similar way to films like 2018’s Hereditary.
Written by Stephen Shields and director Lee Cronin, this Irish folk horror focuses on recently single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) as they build a new life on the outskirts of a small Irish town. It is clear from the outset that this is a family escaping and hiding from the past. A mother desperate to protect and secure her child, in their new isolated home on the edge of a sprawling forest. The films opening scenes echo the ‘The Shining’ as we sweep over the deep dense forest following Sarah and her child; the films score building a sense of impending tension and danger.
The first half of the film builds tension and mystery perfectly, playing with our notions of family security, mental health, and isolation. Performances are strong and engaging, with some creative and clever use of horror film basics in building the disquiet. There are moments of homage to classics of the horror/science fiction genre such as Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Village of the Damned. However, the film struggles to maintain this tension and mystery as we enter the final acts, falling into the trap of a predicable and rushed ending that betrays the promise of the film. At several points toward the films ending, you find yourself wanting the twist, the sharp story arc or shock that would make this film truly creative and fresh. Unfortunately this never comes, a real missed opportunity in a film that could have played far more with its folk horror roots.
At times chilling and atmospheric, The Hole in the Ground never quite manages to build on it’s promising first half, opting for tried and tested horror techniques to conclude a story that could have offered something new.