The Hole in the Ground continues a theme of many recent horrors as it plays with the relationship between a mother and child, focusing on themes of trust, connectivity and parental love. In Lee Cronin’s movie, these core themes find a clear voice through folk horror, where what’s hidden beneath our feet shapes the terror of the world above. Written by Stephen Shields, recently single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey) have just moved to a new property on the outskirts of a small Irish town. From the outset, it is clear that Sarah is escaping the trauma and pain of her recently quashed marriage. But it is also clear that her son Chris may have been hurt during this period of time.
The house they have chosen couldn’t be further removed from any potential social interference, sitting on the edge of a deep dark forest. But despite their seclusion, the future looks bright until they discover a large and mysterious hole in the woods. As Chris’ behaviour suddenly changes, and dark shadows and paranoia cloud the family home, Sarah’s life is about to descend into a pit of turmoil and fear, the roots of which sit in the forest nearby.
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The Hole in the Ground is a film of two halves, the first beautifully building tension and mystery with all the hallmarks of a sublime chiller and the second descending into far more tried and tested horror cliches. Within the first half, it’s clear that Cronin is feeding on themes of family security, mental health, and isolation as he plays with a series of visual and narrative cues that pay homage to Kubrick’s The Shining, Aster’s Hereditary and Marshall’s The Descent. While this homage undoubtedly builds a terrifying atmosphere as you wriggle in your seat, you sometimes find yourself playing spot the link rather than bathing in Cronin’s unique vision. Equally, the atmosphere falters in the film’s closing chapter as Cronin appears to rush toward a conclusion and, in doing so, falls into the trap of the predictable horror ending. Here the tension built quickly evaporates as Cronin’s movie goes underground.
However, despite this flaw, The Hole in the Ground carries moments of sheer brilliance. There is no doubt that this is only the opening chapter from Cronin, who understands the horror genre’s history and loves every last ounce of fear he conjures.
Director: Lee Cronin