Sunday, 30 January 2011

Joe Dante brings you down THE HOLE

Ok, fanboy ranting done for the moment. I have had over a week to regain some semblance of rational. Now I will return to typical, appeasing conversation... Na, I want to talk about more horror films!

This week I finally saw Joe Dante's latest effort, The Hole, a 12A horror film for the younger audience, but you got to remember, this is the same man who brought children Gremlins, a kids horror that goes out of its way to scar you for life and ruin your Christmas beliefs forever, so his version of child-friendly differs for pretty much anyone elses.

I have to say, I am a big Dante fan, even though beyond the Gremlins films and Small Soldiers I find his work very mixed, but still, he defined my childhood with his monster puppet antics, so he is forever a genius in my eyes. This latest effort of his is sadly part of the mixed bag. Full of great ideas and brilliant scares for the most part, this film will have plenty of borderline teens peeing their pants.

The general story is a mother and her two boys move into a new house, which the boys discover sits on top of a bottomless pit that seems to go to hell. With the help of their pretty neighbour, they set about investigating and trying to figure out just what this hole is. It's a simple idea and is shot lovely. What caught me off guard was just how scary this film is, especially for a kids film!

The first half of the film had me on edge, with horror owing a lot to Poltergeist and its disturbing doll, and creepy, almost Japanese-style, horror girl and some bizarre movements making sure I would be freaked out by every creak in my house for the night. The scares kind of dissipate in the later part of the film, but the first parts residual impact keeps you involved and tense.

Oh, fuck this noise...

If you have seen Drag Me To Hell, you may remember its weird style of beginning quite horrific and turning farcical when most films would normally try to up their scares. The Hole takes this same approach (er... spoiler?), which I think is what makes it into the more accessible film for youths I was expecting, wrapping up the story quite contently. It is actually this last act that brings the film down a bit, in my view. Whereas the beginning is quite unrelenting, the ending becomes a sweetened version of itself. I mentioned this film owed a lot to Poltergeist, which is a film that was also intended for kids (I know!!! What the fuck!?!), but that film retained its tone and was consistent, whereas this one, though narratively satisfying, just doesn't play ball with the concepts it was building on. Obviously, I don't want to ruin plot points on people, but if you see the film, you'll see what I mean.

One of the most annoying things about this film is the relationship between the two brothers. Both are adequate actors and have a decent script, but it is thrown in our face repeatedly that they are older/younger brothers who play fight and mock each other but are close. It was a bit much and, as can easily happen with any teenage character, makes the elder brother appear as a bit of a wuss/emo. The film also seems restrained in its 12A bindings, delivering on its plots, but pulling its punches somewhat. Another film that is thoroughly enjoyable, but will leave you with the impression that someone will make it again and fulfill these missing pieces.

I had really wanted to see the film in the cinema with its eye-goggling 3D, but alas, I missed it. I can certainly see where the 3D was intended, but I don't think I lost out with the 2D version. I'll wrap up my thoughts on the film by ending where I started. It is a mixed-bag film by Dante. It is entertaining, but probably will leave anyone looking for an excuse to complain with plenty of reason to. For someone who can take it as an enjoyable horror romp, you may have found a decent night in here.

On last note is that this film is essentially a 2000s remake of 80s B-film The Gate, which some of my older friends may be aware of. The Gate centres around kids finding a hole in their back yard that unleashes demons from hell. Whereas it is intentional, these films bare undeniable similarities and are more alike than official remakes like A Nightmare On Elm Street (pot shots, anyone?). I love the idea of a hole to hell/some kind of evil, but I will give the award to The Hole for being better overall. The Gate was enjoyable and had surreal moments, but lacked scares and was quite slow, whereas The Hole is a great update that may just traumatize some kids, just like Gremlins did two decades ago. At least this one leaves Santa alone...