Kicking off with a very familiar set-up — a young mother and her son escape a traumatic life by fleeing to an isolated house that can only be a portal for trouble — this Irish folk-horror surprises by not sticking with conventional clichés.
Upon exploration of their surrounds the pair discover a huge sinkhole at the edge of the woods, and there’s a madwoman who mumbles about an evil spirit, but director Lee Cronin sensibly concentrates on the relationship between Sarah (a superb Seána Kerslake) and her boy, whose increasingly odd behaviour provides an emotional arc; Sarah is disturbed by his presence but is also afraid of completely cutting him off. One gets a sense of the terror of being stuck with someone you don’t really know, and the helplessness of people not believing you. There’s an increasing weirdness to the proceedings within the house that suggests we don’t know if the threat is from within or in the woods; a pleasing lack of full explanation that allows you to draw your own conclusions.
Finally the Irish film industry seems to be embracing their rich seam of literary horror that includes Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and a lot of unsettling folklore. The Hole in the Ground follows several good films in the genre (Wake Wood, Dark Touch, The Canal) and may be the best of them, offering a dark reading of mythology and finding a fresh cinematic way to leap into the abyss.
James Quinn Markey
DVD & BLU-RAY
8 Jul 2019