Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris. A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbor shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiraling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home.
Sarah (Seána Kerslake) is a good mom. Despite the fact that there is clearly some family strife, the new horror film The Hole in the Ground opens with Sarah and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) in a local amusement funhouse having a bit of fun. It is only on their way home that they run into the town crazy Norreen (Kati Outinen), aka “Walkie Talkie.” Nearly running her over, Sarah stops to check on this odd woman standing in the road muttering, incoherently. We learn that the insane lady believes that years before she lost her son to a legendary creature. Known as a Changeling in Irish culture, these subterranean beings would steal children and take their form. Well, best to move along and leave the woman in the road.
“Known as a Changeling in Irish culture, these subterranean beings would steal children and take their form…”
However, late one night as Sarah and Chris lay sleeping in their new, rather oversized home, noises are heard. Chris disappears, and Sarah follows the sound out into the forest where she comes upon a gaping hole in the ground. Returning to the house, she discovers her son, or what she believes to be her son, waiting for her to return. At first, things are suspect. Soon enough though, Sarah begins to detect very strange behaviors and begins to wonder if her son has been stolen away.
Written by Lee Cronin and Stephen Shields, The Hole in the Ground plays with the known legends and applied them to modern, everyday life. Little seeds are inconspicuously planted in the first act that suddenly becomes alarming payoffs in the second and third. Chris used to never eat his food; now he eats voraciously. He was never outgoing; now he is in the talent show.
“…an entirely fulfilling movie that takes folklore and applies modern logic.”
While Kerslake is wonderful as the roubles, confused mother Sarah, it is Markey that owns every scene he is in. Reminding us of the next Hailey Joel Osment, Markey carefully measures facial ticks and movement to suddenly become another person altogether. It is pretty wonderful work.
We were also impressed with Lee Cronin’s wonderful visual sense. Recalling Neil Marshall’s work in The Descent, we see a beautiful sense of visual symbolism with colors and composition. Cronin knows what he is trying to imply and we get a sense of it straight away while other things are more subtle.
Is Chris an imposter, will Sarah ever uncover the truth, and how is this all related to the ever-sinking crater in the nearby woods? I can say that this is an entirely fulfilling movie that takes folklore and applies modern logic. The Hole In the Ground surprised me, took me on a fun ride, and returned me, almost unshaken. This was a brilliantly satisfying monster movie.
The Hole in the Ground (2019) Directed by Lee Cronin. Written by Lee Cronin, Stephen Shields. Starring Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Simone Kirby, Kati Outinen. The Hole in the Ground screened at 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
7 out of 10 stars