Dane Thompson (Chris Massoglia) and his younger brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) have just moved with their single mother to this smalltown address, and he is not happy about this turn of events, but his mother (Teri Polo) tries to make him understand that they have had to make this adjustment thanks to reasons they'd rather not talk about. However, it's not all bad as he catches sight of the girl next door, Julie (Haley Bennett), and is immediately interested - Lucas on the other hand is more intrigued by the trapdoor they find in the basement...
Joe Dante returned to feature film directing after too long away with this unassuming but pleasing effort, not one of his best perhaps but enough to reassure his fans that he still had what it took to conjure up a solid fantasy movie. As with many of his horror-themed stories, this one from a script by Mark L. Smith, it had family audiences in mind, or at least those kids old enough to cope with relentless creepiness and the older generation who wanted to see a good chiller without worrying that things would get too intense. Even so, Dante worked up a degree of tension about the contents of the titular hole that cast a neat spell over the audience.
If there was a flaw, it was the big reveal about what precisely was going on was rather underfed as far as it went, but until that point the film harkened back to what for many at time of its release was a golden age of fantasy, horror and sci-fi pictures, the eighties, as this could easily have been created in that decade without much recourse to updating it for the twenty-first century. That sense of paying tribute to the Dante movies of old was what made the man himself the best chap for the job in bringing this to the screen, and everyone involved was sympathetic to what offered an entertainment in his style.
The main characters are the three introduced at the beginning, the two brothers and Julie whose interest in Dane has been piqued so she wanders over to see what's up, inadvertantly getting a look at the trapdoor that sits in the middle of the floor and is apparently bottomless, as when they throw odd bits of junk down into it, they never hear them hit the ground. In a way, this was actually the serious version of the half recalled animated series The Trap Door, where it would open and let out some monster or other for the five minute episode, causing comic problems for the cast. What emerges from this particular pit, however, is no laughing matter, consisting of ghosts and a Poltergeist-esque clown doll.
What these represent is nothing original, meaning the journey to reach the denouement is probably more enjoyable than the actual destination, but Dante littered the film with this signature technique, so yes, Dick Miller does show up if only for a few seconds, and the close knit, American neighbourhood depicted is one familiar from his previous works, so what he was providing was not exactly a stretch for him. Better to think of The Hole as an old pro playing a few tunes that his audience had grown to love, and if they didn't seem as fresh this time around, then at least in these hands there was no pandering or talking down to the audience most likely to appreciate it. Plus there was a message of standing up for yourself whether you're being bullied or something more unpleasant is going on, not hitting you over the head with it but still an improving theme should you care to look for it. If not, there were those amusing chills to keep you occupied - and a crazy Bruce Dern too, the best kind. Music by Javier Navarette.
American director of science fiction and horror, a former critic who got his big break from Roger Corman directing Hollywood Boulevard. Piranha was next, and he had big hits with The Howling and Gremlins. But his less successful films can be as interesting: Explorers didn't do as well as he had hoped, but illustrated the love of pop culture that is apparent in all his work.