In the loudly menacing The Hole in the Ground, a solid debut from Irish director Lee Cronin, young mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey), have just moved to an isolated house in the country — which, not to blame the victims here, never turns out well. Their house is near a forest, at the center of which is the big-ass title character, about 100 feet in diameter, dug out like a mining pit. There’s not even a fence around it. This is very dangerous!
But the film’s horror isn’t about someone falling into the hole, as fun as that would be. There are other ominous factors, including an older local woman, Noreen (Kati Outinen), who went cuckoo a while back and thought her son had been replaced by a “changeling.” Now she wanders the streets in a hood and cloak like a harbinger of doom and is the subject of local legends.
Wouldn’t you know it, Sarah soon starts having the same suspicions about Chris. He seems different somehow since they moved here, and even his benign actions like eating spaghetti or combing his hair now strike her as sinister. She has vivid hallucinations that make us, as viewers, unsure whether she’s cracking up or whether there’s something else at play here. And what does the hole have to do with it, anyway?
Creepiness ensues. Based more on tension and uncertainty than on shocks, the film’s horror is never unbearable or grotesque. The screechy sound design can be overbearing (and does all the work in some scenes), but apart from that and the fact that the film goes on for exactly one (1) scene longer than it should have, I have no major qualms with this atmospheric and effective little chiller.
(Screened at the Sundance Film Festival; now in theaters and VOD)