A favourite out of Sundance, The Hole in the Ground has premiered in the UK and is everything that has been promised by the reactions. Lee Cronin’s Irish psychological-horror is a spine-tickling experience with outstanding direction that reminds of A24’s slew of new horror directors like Ari Aster (Hereditary) and Robert Eggers (The Witch).
The film is a deeply disturbing and twisted tale of a some-what broken family. A recent comparison of potential influence is ‘The Babadook’, in both films there is a focus on mother and son – tackling the depths of their lives through living with a strange-unnerving sense of doubt and fear, constantly.
We follow Sarah, a single mother (Seana Kerslake) dealing with her some-what lonely son (James Quinn Markey). After a crash with a neighbour things begin to slowly seep out of control. Similar to the gigantic sink hole featured in the middle of the ever-expanding forest, sinking bit by bit. Sarah begins to suspect things aren’t perhaps as they seem as her anxiety develops further.
As described by Cronin himself, this is a horror that leans into the ‘monster movie’ sub genre. However it is an entirely new take, with its slow burning pace used to build up incredible amounts tension it magnifies reality and what we know. This is down mainly to the atmospheric sound design that rips into you from the very start. Its sound levels are loud and rather manipulative, heightening reality to create effect – to which it is very successful.
The main focus is the sanity of the mum, with the sink hole being a literal representation of her doubts. It ends off in a room full of mirrors, rather ambiguous about the psychological state of her as we leave. Which enhances the uncertainty and instability of the fantastical world created.
A key strength and feature of the film is its horror symbolism, the little subtleties that help enhance that sense of fear within the spectator. The forest, the creaking of doors, and the idea of the monster. It utilises the atmosphere to delve into the pschye of both characters in all their ambiguity. It is really at its core a character study of a broken relationship between mother and son. Seána Kerslake acts through her eyes, portraying emotion that reaches into the camera and reels you in through the never-ending tension of her struggles. Kerslake is a star to look out for. As is Cronin, beginning the film with an aerial shot that is reminiscent of Hitchcock, detailing a creative director with a clear vision. As the film progresses the direction stays precise and clear, this helps ease you as you know your in the hands of a capable director from the beginning.
The Hole in the Ground is a slow-paced horror that shines through its sharp direction, bone-chilling performances and tension-filled sound design. It is a beautifully unnerving film that delves psychologically into the connection of two fruitfully dark characters.