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The Hole
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The Hole (2001)

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Plot Summary:
"A modern thriller set in a British private school. Based on the best selling cult novel by Guy Burt, 'After The Hole' takes us on a disturbing roller coaster ride where "truth" and "fiction" become commodities in a bizarre adolescent prank which goes wrong."

Review by
Ryan McDonald
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Review Date: 22 August 2011 My Rating: out of 5


After being missing for several days, boarding school student Thora Birch emerges, dishevelled and looking to be in a state of shock. She is mute about where she has been and what has happened, but police psychologist Embeth Davidtz is brought in to get answers. One day, Birch finally opens up and tells her story, which somehow resulted in three deaths. Her friend Daniel Brocklebank (who pines after Birch) had found a perfect way for Birch to be with her dream guy, American student Desmond Harrington. Brocklebank would arrange for Birch, Harrington, and two others (Keira Knightley and Laurence Fox) to spend three days inside an underground bunker out in the woods at the end of term (locked from the outside). Like anyone would do, I’m sure. For some reason, the others actually agree to do this (though obviously neither Birch nor Brocklebank fill them in on their Machiavellian scheme). They tell everyone at school that they are going home, they tell their parents, meanwhile, that they’re going on a school field trip. The problem is, after three days, Brocklebank doesn’t show up to let them out. Gee, I hope someone packed plenty of food and water. And that, dear readers is just the beginning, as Davidtz begins to wonder if there’s something Birch is leaving out, especially when Brocklehurst claims she’s lying. Steven Waddington plays a police detective investigating the incident.

Although this Nick Hamm (the disappointing “Godsend”) flick was marketed as being somewhat like “The Blair Witch Project”, it’s actually more in the vein of “Rashomon” or “The Usual Suspects”. It’s more of a twisty psychological thriller with a claustrophobic edge to it. And it’s not bad, actually. The characters are mostly unlikeable (think a British “Cruel Intentions”), but due to the “Rashomon” nature of the film, it’s never dull. If you don’t like one version of the characters, you’ll get another one soon enough that might be more to your liking. That said, I was never quite able to get over the inanity of their situation. Oh, bomb shelters are theory. Personally, I think the most interesting character is the one young person (played by Brocklebank) who doesn’t go down the hole.

Well-acted across the board (One does lament Davidtz choice of roles in recent years, though), however Birch whispers throughout the whole thing, irritatingly. Open your mouth properly when speaking, dear. She’s well-cast, though, and her English accent was fine enough to my ears. Meanwhile, check out American actor Desmond Harrington with the single worst haircut I’ve ever seen in my life. Oh, and we get a brief shot of a then 15 year-old Keira Knightley’s breasts. Apparently her mother was there with her on set, so it’s all OK, I’m sure. Clothed or not, she was still stealing the show with her charisma even in 2001.

It’s not a great film, and you’re spending 90 minutes or so with a bunch of rich jerks (who have very peculiar ideas about what constitutes ‘fun’), but it’s quite original and watchable nonetheless.

Reviewer: Josh Winning @horrorasylum
Review Date: 31 October 2001 My Rating: out of 5

Where to begin? I suppose I should start by stating that I know this movie will get a lot of rap from people who went into it expecting something other than they got. Again it's going to be a typical case of the publicity going against the movie itself. The trailers and television commercials released prior to The Hole demonstrate just how desperate producers are to get the 'Scream crowd' into their movies, as The Hole was dressed-up as another dark teen slasher. If you're going in expecting this you will be sorely disappointed - if only because all the death and mayhem is restricted to the final thirty minutes of the film. But if you go in with an open mind, you will experience something that is almost completely unique, darkly disturbing and alltogether very special.

The Hole is one of those movies that is extremely hard to review. There are few out there, but sometimes one comes across a film that is so multi-layered and complex that it is excruciatingly hard to write a review for it without going over and over spoilers in an attempt to unravel the enternal mystery that the film is. In truth, it seems that The Hole will be one of those films that critics will either dismiss with a wave of their hand as hocum nonsence, or spend years anlysing in order to conquer it. I suppose the best place to start this review would be the beginning...

The opening scene of The Hole demonstrates perfectly what the entire movie is holding in store. As a bedraggled, dirty girl runs exhaustedly to - and then inside - a large Private School, her heavy breathing is the only thing we can hear. Dialling , she takes a few rattling breathes, and then screams down the line, collapsing on the floor. This one unanticipated, echoing scream shows perfectly how unexpected things can - and do - jump at the viewer throughout the movie from unexpected ways.

We are then treated to a beautiful panning shot of the English countryside as we follow the paths of two police cars towards the afore-mentioned Private School. The sequence is accompanied by an excellent musical score that is a mix of humming, beating synthesizers and traditional musical instruments which lend the movie a very dramatic and uneasy feel, as if even the score - like Liz, as we later discover - is not sure where it is going or where it has come from. It is strangely upbeat and yet almost mournful and strangely intense.

The same can also be said of Nick Hamm's directing. The Hole is a movie that is constantly shifting its focus, and Hamm uses often-contrasting shots to show the differences between the different narratives of the story. The scenes that take place in the war bunker range from the very funny (a scene in which the friends believe the place has been bugged and Martin can hear their every word, leading to them using signs to communicate ends with hilarious results) to the completely horrific (after weeks in the bunker, the place is crawling with bugs, and dead bodies are rotting away in the darkness). The imagery of The Hole is one almost unmatched even by the higher-budget American movies, and the very final couple of shots in the finale are particularly artistic and clever.

The cast of The Hole are all excellent. The main thing that attracted me to the movie in the first place was Thora Birch, who I have always enjoyed in other films, and here she gives an excellently-complex performance of a character that is so messed up it's hard to tell just how Ms. Birch managed to interpret her onto the screen. Her British accent was practically flawless apart from a few times when she slipped slightly (at times she sounded like she'd come from London, and then later Birmingham). The rest of the UK cast were also brilliant, and although I have not seen any of them before, they were all impressive in their professional and believeable performances.

Something that stands out the most about The Hole is the way that it is constantly teasing the viewer. At the beginning we see that there is a loose screw on the steps leading down to the bunker, and even though this loose screw isn't referred to again until the penultimate scene of the film, whenever somebody climbs the stairs there is an all-round sense of apprehension at what may happen. The same goes for the characters - in particular Liz and Martin - where we are given small glimpses of what they are really all about throughout the movie, but are never entirely sure if what we see is the truth.

The Hole is a complex and intriguing psychological horror that is both tense and incredibly clever. A product of excellent creative team-work, and a great delve into the murky world of Horror for Britain. More please!

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