Truth and Movies

The Hole in the Ground

Review by Andy Crump

Directed by

Lee Cronin

Starring

James Quinn Markey Seána Kerslake Simone Kirby

Anticipation.

The unassuming title belies a horror yarn that confronts the frightening reality of raising a child alone.

Enjoyment.

Cronin builds up his narrative patiently without waiting to confront his audience with spooks and frights.

In Retrospect.

A solid entry in child horror cinema.

A mother-son relationship is stretched to its limits in this affecting and chilling Irish horror.

In Lee Cronin’s debut feature, Ireland’s forests present a particular danger. They’re home to a mysterious sinkhole the size of a car park, which is itself home to forces both ancient and foul. Where so many contemporary indie horror films slowburn their way to actual horror, The Hole in the Ground, building on Irish horror traditions, immediately establishes that things bode ill for single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey).

Newly relocated to rural Ireland, they know few of their neighbours and none of the local legends. One particularly grim tale, about a mother who murdered her own child under the delusion that the child wasn’t hers at all, sets Sarah’s nerves on edge. To others she appeared mad, but a mother knows…

Then one evening, Chris vanishes – only to return just as suddenly with no explanation. Somehow he doesn’t quite seem himself, and Sarah grows suspicious. Fairy tales have a way of casually pricking at reason and getting under the skin; they’re innocuous in books, where most people first encounter them, but downright sinister when left to churn in the imagination.

Cronin, capitalising on that dynamic, creates an unnerving mood from the film’s outset, deploying funhouse mirrors and aerial shots of parallel back roads while capturing the vast, wild beauty of the Irish countryside, a verdant expanse great enough to veil the primeval terror of its residents’ worst nightmares.

There’s a reason every culture on the planet has its own set of scary myths and fables to tell; they teach us lessons about what it means to be human. In The Hole in the Ground, being human means struggling with parenthood and confronting scars both literal and figurative, all while under self-imposed isolation. Irish culture is rich with stories of fairies snatching children from their homes in the dead of night, and The Hole in the Ground adds to that heritage.

Being scared is good fun, too, and if creepy kids make for easy scares, Markey’s performance is one for the ages. Together he and Kerslake anchor the film’s more familiar genre elements, while Cronin uses horror’s tools to drill into mother-child relationships. The film underpins human concerns with folkloric dread, validating parental anxiety with the eerie pleasure of watching things go bump in the night. Parents often wonder how well they know their kids. The Hole in the Ground manifests those musings into panic.

Published 24 Feb 2019

Tags: Lee Cronin

Anticipation.

The unassuming title belies a horror yarn that confronts the frightening reality of raising a child alone.

Enjoyment.

Cronin builds up his narrative patiently without waiting to confront his audience with spooks and frights.

In Retrospect.

A solid entry in child horror cinema.

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