The Hole is the first feature released from everyman crowd-pleaser director Joe Dante in some years (however it's been out in Europe). It is not only a throwback to some favorite children's movies of the macabre from the 70s and 80s (think: The Watcher in the Woods, Lady in White, or The Gate) it's also a nod and wink back to some of Dante's own previous works such as Gremlins, Explorers, and Small Soldiers.
The story follows a pair of fatherless brothers — teenage Dane (Chris Massoglia) and younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble) — as they adjust to newly living in a small town with their mom (Teri Polo) and dealing with the mysterious goings-on emanating from the trap-door in their cellar. Like any industrious and curious young'uns, they unbolt the locks to see what's down there. It's safe to say, it's not a direct route to China. As their curvaceous young neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett) says, "You've got a gateway to hell under your house. And that is really cool.")
If you enjoyed recent scary-but-kid-safe thrillers like Don't Be Afraid of the Dark or Super 8 — albeit toned down for pre-teens — then The Hole is definitely worth a peek. It's got good character development and we get to know our trio of young heroes well before the spooky stuff starts to seep out. Polo is basically just "the mom" and doesn't know anything about the hinky hole; Bruce Dern in a cameo as creepy Carl, is the most prominent adult, warning the kids the hole has been there "since the world’s first scream." Yikes!
Once the dead man's party kicks off, it's pretty darn effective. It might even be too frightening for younger kids (I'm not a parent, and have not been a kid myself since, well, what seems like the world's first scream). There are a few Samara-styled little girl ghostly moments, plus big/bad shadow monsters, and even a gleefully evil little jester-clown doll which comes to life (pleasingly reminiscent of the terrifying toy from Tobe Hooper's Poltergeist).
The Hole was engineered to be seen in 3D. There is a 3D Blu-ray version available, but I have seen only the 2D presentation. There are a few quite-obvious moments of 'in your face' POV 3D shots (Lucas tossing a baseball up and down into his mitt, the kids lowering a camera down into the chasm, supernatural manifestations) — but, as said, they're not too egregious and maybe if the viewer isn't aware of the 3D connection, are not even noticeable.
Overall, The Hole is an entertaining, well-made, fun and slightly chilling mystery that fits nicely into the family fare horror genre.
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Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson