It would appear that 2019 is all set to be the year of the spooky kid. With the much anticipated Brightburn and The Prodigy on the way, eerily blank-faced little boys are the genre’s must-have right now.
The first of this batch of films, Irish director Lee Cronin’s The Hole In The Ground is already gathering plenty of hype following a stellar reception at Sundance, and has even been called this year’s The Babadook by some critics.
It’s easy to see why the comparison has been made - it’s the story of a strong but fragile single mother, Sarah (played by a fantastic Seána Kerslake) and her crumbling relationship with her odd son Christopher (an impressive big-screen debut for James Quinn Markey). Opening shortly after the pair moves into the creakiest creepiest house in all of rural Ireland, the story really picks up steam after a trip into the nearby forest reveals a gargantuan sinkhole, while an ominous rant from the local crazy old lady suggests all is not as it seems.
Soon Christopher’s demeanour becomes all but unrecognisable, causing Sarah to wonder if the boy that returned from the woods is really her son...
First time feature director Cronin made waves with his acclaimed short Ghost Train, and the scare-crafting skills on display there are evident in this movie too. At times genuinely unnerving, if the success of a horror flick is measured in scariness The Hole In The Ground absolutely delivers. It looks fantastic, and even the quieter moments drip with an all-pervading sense of dread.
Cronin’s eye for a shot really brings the film to life, turning the dank forest into a character all of its own, while it also boasts some impressive and understated effects during a couple of the more nightmarish moments.
The film is certainly buoyed by its sterling cast - as well as the terrific Kerslake and Markey (expect to hear both mentioned during Awards season), there’s also a stand-out turn from great character actor James Cosmo.
However, while the film is undoubtedly very good, I do feel it is a touch premature to be mentioning it in the same breath as modern classics such as the aforementioned The Babadook or Robert Eggers’ The VVitch. The Hole In The Ground isn’t quite as smart as Jessica Kent’s grief allegory, nor does it feel as groundbreaking in what it does as the 2015 period chiller.
Perhaps it is better off compared with other recent offerings from across the Irish Sea, such as Corin Hardy’s The Hallow or Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal - and it is arguably even better than those fine films.
The Hole In The Ground is an easy recommendation for those of you looking for a slick, sophisticated horror movie.
There’s no burying your head in the sand here - The Hole In The Ground establishes Cronin as a real talent to watch in the future
DVD, Blu-ray & Digital out 8th July from Vertigo Releasing. Order today: https://amzn.to/2YhDcyz