Friday, September 21, 2012

THE HOLE (2009)

Dane is a token disenfranchised teen, and for good reason.  His dad is AWOL, he just moved into a lame new suburb where he has no friends, and his annoying blonde moppet brother Lucas keeps pestering him to play basketball (although I’m not sure why, considering Dane would no doubt own his ass down on the low post).  He also pines for hot neighbor Julie, who likes to throw pool parties with all of her cool friends when she isn’t sunbathing.  Julie is out of his league, even though he seems to be a good looking dude; I don’t know, folks.  As a result, he sits around buried in his iPod, probably rocking along to a song about parents who just don’t understand.  Not specifically the DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince song, but whatever the modern white suburban equivalent is.  I have no idea.

So, what do you do when you’re moping around bored in a new house?  Why, check out the creepy basement, of course!  That’s guaranteed excitement!  Sure enough, the brothers find and unlock what looks like a crawlspace but is actually a hole.  They drop several objects down the hole and they don’t hear them hitting the bottom.  Are they sucked into an alternate universe?  Do the objects disintegrate as they approach the earth’s core?  Does the hole reach all the way to China?  Alas, the scientific mind allows for so many possibilities!

This provides an opportunity for Lucas and Dane to bond as they try to figure out what the deal is with the hole.  This mystery also attracts the interest of Julie, who walks over and quips “is that what you do for fun…play with your holes?”  She joins the pair in their quest to solve the mystery, opening up to Dane by saying “you’ve got a gateway to hell under your house, and that is really cool”.  Boy, that’s my kind of woman.  Who knew a pit of nothingness could bring people together so.

 Haley was also smokin' in Greg Araki's Kaboom, for what it's worth.

However, as you might imagine, opening the hole also unleashes an evil force.  God damnit, I knew there was a catch.  Figures, what with it looking like the padlocked basement door from The Evil Dead.  Anyway, I won’t give away what this “force” is specifically, except that it involves childhood fears.  Okay, I’ll give one part of it away.  Lucas is afraid of his giant creepy clown doll, probably because it is fucking horrifying, and this force causes the doll to teleport around and come alive and what not, which makes it even more horrifying if such a thing is possible.  I just don’t get why a parent would buy their child a human size clown doll with a face that makes it perpetually look like it’s about to rape somebody at knife point.  Then again, I’m not a parent.  What do I know about raising children. 

If this sounds like both a cross between Poltergeist and 1987’s The Gate (about two friends finding a gateway to hell in their backyard), as well as something director Joe Dante may have made in the 80’s, it basically is.  There’s even the requisite Dick Miller cameo, playing the oldest pizza boy the world has ever seen (hopefully not delivering the world’s oldest pizza).  However, The Hole feels more like a made-for-TV movie than a big budget Hollywood affair, but in the best sense possible.  The movie is largely shot on unadorned and authentic locations, stripped down both aesthetically and in terms of the script.  Everything is set up in literally five minutes without being reductive, immediately hooking you with characters you can sympathies with.  In an era of Hollywood movies beginning with 20 minutes of exposition telling us shit we don’t really need to know in clunky fashion, this is a welcome respite.

Unlike a bloated Hollywood confrontation between good and evil, where the heroes defeat a perfunctory CGI monster and the world is restored to order, the threats here are based in the characters and, how about that, actually pretty scary as a result.  When a monster that isn’t based in reality is forced in just to have something for the main characters to defeat, it registers more as an opportunity for empty victory than anything approaching real horror.

Although the movie could be described as “kiddie horror”, there is an important distinction between a horror movie about kids (literally and thematically) and one that is simply kidified and watered down.  Even so, The Hole is based in well tread material, but at least it’s well done and even has a few tricks up its sleeve.  For example, what do you think might happen if someone were to fall into an infinite hole?  If you haven’t seen the movie, that question might send you down a headache inducing mental wormhole of Stephen Hawking-esque proportions, and for that I apologize. 

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