Director - Joe Dante
Cast - Nathan Gamble, Chris Massoglia
Country of Origin - U.S.
Discs - 1
Distributor - Big Air Films
Reviewer - Scott MacDonald
Date - 10/06/12
The Film (3.5/5)
A new Joe Dante movie is usually a reason to celebrate. It has been 9 years since the U.S. theatrical released of his last film Looney Tunes - Back in Action an attempt to keep those W.B. Animated characters in the spotlight after the success of the Michael Jordan starring vehicle SpaceJam. The film was not the success some had anticipated, and inexplicably took Dante's feature film career temporarily with it.
This isn't to say the man wasn't busy in those years, aside from his excellent pet project the TrailersFromHell.com website he did some TV work including 2 episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror series. The first film he has done since Looney Tunes, is 2008's the Hole, which saw a theatrical release throughout Europe in 2009, but for some reason was not released stateside in any form until now.
The Hole represents a somewhat return to form for Dante who spent the earlier part of his career directing a blend of R-Rated fright fare such as horror classics The Howling and Pirahna, to more family friendly fare such as Gremlins, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Innerspace, and the completely underrated Matinee. When most people think of Dante's Gremlins films the first thought that comes to mind is typically Gizmo, and "aww cute," rewatching these films in recent years with my own children, and seeing them lulled in by the safe family friendly atmosphere only to get scared out of there wits by a man who is truly a master of horror was a stark reminder of how powerful a director Dante really is, which brings me to The Hole.
When I popped the Hole into my DVD player, and hit play, I was immediately turned off by what I was seeing. The initial appearance of the film looked like the backdoor pilot of a modern Disney Channel show down to the all too perfect tween cast. This is the magic of Joe Dante, applied to a new generation. The film starts slowly, and subverts the audiences expectations. The members of the audience who are older and familiar with Dante, might see this and be put off because of the parental, and modern association with Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel's current output, while children will see something they are more familiar with. This would appear safe, and then slowly the film begins to reveal itself, and offers something more sinister, and ultimately scary, but on a family friendly level.
As a parent I frequently lament the lack of truly scary films that bridge the gap between my children and myself, having grown up in the 80's and early 90's there were children’s films that actually were able to horrify and scare children without resorting to more adult violence and shock tactics. Now, of course, it feels things are a lot more whitewashed cinematically speaking, so when a film like the Hole comes around it feels like a cinematic breath of fresh air.
The Hole starts Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble as brothers Dane and Lucas, who are constantly moving with their unsettled Mother. They have just moved from hip, exciting Brooklyn, New York into a boring suburb. Soon after the brothers strike up a friendship with neighbor girl Julie (Haley Bennett). Soon after moving in the brothers discover a locked door in their basement floor, being a pair of curious children, they break the locks off of it, in an effort to discover what lies beneath, but discover it contains only a seemingly bottomless hole. Once open The Hole lets some sort of malevolent spirit into the world which begins to torment the 2 brothers, and Julie. They begin to try and find ways to banish it including interrogating the houses prior occupant Creepy Carl (The Trip's Bruce Dern). Unfortunately, Carl is no assistance, and the trio end of having to descent into their own nightmare like dreamscape to fight back against the spirits of the Hole.
The film starts out like I said feeling like a suburban entry into a typical Disney Channel movie, before descending into a creepy ghostly horror film. The films third act which takes a bizarro tonal shift into some more psychological territory is handed well by Dante, and really helps separate the film from anything you are likely to see in this genre, and made for this sort of audience any time in the near future. The cast play there roles well, nothing over the top, but they are believable as the 3 children. Also, it's always nice to see Corman players like Bruce Dern on the screen again, and even without saying a word I will never not be excited by the presence of Dick Miller in any movie (he played a pizza delivery guy in a blink and you'll miss it cameo).
Joe Dante's The Hole feels like a Joe Dante style family horror film updated for modern audiences. It has a tendency to go many places most family-fare would choose not to, and for that I have to commend it, and on top of that it's just a damn good time at the movies.
Joe Dante's The Hole has come to DVD with a very nice 1:85:1 widescreen image. The detail, colors, and and black levels are completely solid, and flesh tones are accurate. There does not appear to be any issues with print damage, or compression artifacting. There is a Blu-ray DVD combo floating about, and obviously I would recommend that if you are able.
The audio is presented with a solid 5.1 track in English. The track is completely solid with dialogue being completely audible throughout, with sound effects and music being mixed together nicely. My only complaint is for a Region 1 DVD release there are only Spanish subtitle options, and I find that quite a bit annoying.
There is not a heck of a lot in the way of extras on the Hole. We start with an 3.5 minute interview with the films producer, the actor Nathan Gamble and Joe Dante. We then get an interview titled relationships which features Teri Polo who plays the Mother in the film alongside the 2 actors who played the brothers, and the films screenwriter, as they discuss the relationships in the film. This is about 5 minutes long. We then get a Peek at the Hole a 5 minute long extra that details the effects process, The Making of the Hole at 12 minute making of for the film, and the disc is rounded off with a stills gallery.
A sleeper family horror film from director Joe Dante. The film was created in 2008, but sadly has not been released until now. It is an excellent little horror film, and should please parents looking for something with a scary-edge to watch with their (older) children. The A/V on the disc is quite pleasing, but the extras are limited. Recommended.