|Hole, The (2001)|
|Written by Paul Lingas|
|Tuesday, 19 October 2004|
A semi-interesting psychological horror film that makes use of some good young American and English actors, “The Hole” is an adaptation of the book, “After the Hole” by Guy Burt. Though it has a promising young cast and an interesting premise, some of the twists are either a tad too unbelievable or too easily seen coming for the film to be entirely successful.
The film begins with Liz (Thora Birch) traipsing down a lane towards her private English school, wearing little but socks and a ratty robe. She makes her way into the school, calls emergency and screams into the phone before curling up into the fetal position. She winds up at the hospital, where she is subjected to a rape kit and then placed in the mental ward, where she is soon visited by Dr. Horwood (Embeth Davidtz), a forensic psychologist of some sort. She asks Liz what happened, and so begins the relation of her trials and tribulations in the hole.
We now see life a few weeks earlier at the prep school, where the girls and boys are visible only if they are perfect. Liz and her friend Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank), who obviously has a crush on her, are sort of on the fringe of being cool and Liz is desperate to become fully cool. Liz (along with practically everybody else) has a crush on Mike (Desmond Harrington), a jockish type of American whose father is in a famous band. Mike’s best friend is Geoff (Laurence Fox), and his friend and wannabe girlfriend is the ever-popular Frankie (Keira Knightley). According to Liz, Mike, Geoff and Frankie were all looking to get out of an upcoming school trip to Wales, so Martyn set up a little adventure for them to get away and stay hidden. He includes Liz in it, hoping to help her woo Mike. The five meet in the woods and Martyn reveals a small round door with a tiny window that is set into the ground. The hole is an abandoned bomb shelter that has toilets and power, but little else. Set for camping out, the four are locked in by Martyn, who will return in three days, just in time to get them back to school for the end of the Wales trip and the end of term. Anyone want to guess whether or not Martyn will return in three days?
Mike, Geoff, Frankie and Liz hang out, and while Liz is trying subtly to woo Mike, he and Geoff both seem more interested in the ebullient Frankie. After three days, everyone begins to freak out because they have no way of opening the door from the inside and only Martyn knows where they are. If something has happened to Martyn, then they will eventually die in the hole. Liz comes up with a plan to outwit Martyn, whom she presumes has trapped them on purpose so that she will see what a jerk Mike actually is. Liz’s ruse works, someone unlocks the door, they all get out, Liz and Mike end up together and Liz’s story to Dr. Horwood ends. Unfortunately, this is not the true story, for we find that Liz is in fact the only survivor and Martyn has been accused of kidnapping and murder. Dr. Horwood has to try and convince Liz that there is more to the story, while she and a detective (Steven Waddington) try and piece together what happened. Dr. Horwood is sure that Liz is simply keeping things to herself because, due to the intense physical and psychological trauma, her brain has chosen to shut out the painful memories of what actually took place. Slowly we see bits and pieces of what really happened, like the fact that the other three never made it out of the hole alive, and that Liz is hiding something. As the story progresses, we see more of the true interaction within the hole, like how the four take turns supporting and then turning on each other, depending on their mental state. Needless to say, we do eventually find out what happened and it is quite disturbing, but you’ll have to see it for yourself to find out.
This film came out three years ago, before Knightley became famous with “Bend It like Beckham” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.” She does a great job as bad girl Frankie, exuding smarts and sex appeal all at once. Harrington is another up and comer who really has the sensitive/insensitive jock thing down to a science and Fox does a good job as the easily temperamental Geoff. Birch is the actual star here, and though her English accent fades in and out at times, she does an effective job of playing the victim, stalker, heartbroken wretch and psychotic. The actors and the idea of the story make it passable, as does the mostly firm directing. Nick Hamm manages to create a creepy situation not only through lighting and set design, but also through the psychological makeup of the main characters and a subtle revealing of the true events. On the other hand, the subtlety at times becomes so maddening that you just sit there trying to figure out what happened, and at times everything becomes clear far before it is revealed. Remember, storytellers, you want to be subtle at times, but not so much so that you distract the viewer from what is happening onscreen. Anyhow, it would be easy to see this becoming a cult film of sorts for anyone who has attended a private school or otherwise has gone through the whole painful experience of trying to get people to like you.
Special features are included, but are mostly pedestrian in their sophistication and execution. The deleted scenes are of the variety where when you see them, you think, “Thank goodness they cut these.” Each of the deleted scenes has a temp track over it, which is just music from the rest of the film overlaid onto the soundtrack. Usually the track is either too loud or entirely inappropriate for the scene in question. Most deleted scenes either have their own specific scoring or leave any music out; having prefabricated tracks makes these deleted scenes hard to watch. The cast and crew bios and the image gallery are sparse and consist of little more than promotional shots of the actors. The commentary from director Hamm is one of the worst I have ever heard. He is dry, pedantic and acts as if everything he talks about is either the most interesting thing in the world when it isn’t, or is so basic that he doesn’t feel particularly motivated to talk about it. Not to sound obnoxious, but he sounds like the stereotype of a self-important British director.
The transfer is surprisingly crisp and the blacks are nice and deep with little grain swirl. Taking into account the fact that there are so many dark, low-contrast shots in the film, the transfer is key to making most of the scenes in the hole discernable on the small screen. Unfortunately, the nice picture is kind of washed by a simplistically mixed stereo surround audio track. At times, the music is mixed far too richly and it just seems to draw an overt amount of attention to itself, which is never good and even less so when the score gets a bit goofy at times. Then again, “The Hole” is a few years old and considering that, the lack of bells and whistles is understandable and ultimately not really necessary for the type of film that it is.
This DVD was finally released with Knightley and Birch’s names and faces on the cover, even though Knightley is billed fifth in the credits. The release of the DVD and the overt presence of Knightley as a selling point are clearly due to Knightley’s increasing popularity. Overall, “The Hole” is a decent psychological thriller with a simple design but more complex idea. With a crisp transfer that lacks other frills, make room for this one in the cult/noir area of your DVD shelf.