It’s time for more Spooktober, and Irish film The Hole in the Ground is getting us to our halfway point. This is an A24 film directed by first-time director Lee Cronin and written by Lee Cronin and Stephen Shields. The Hole in the Ground is the story of Sarah (Seána Kerslake), a young mother who moves with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) to a home in the Irish countryside to escape a troubling past and an abusive husband. After Sarah and Chris find a sinkhole in the middle of the forest, Sarah notices that her son is starting to exhibit disturbing behavior. Is he even her son? Or did something else come back from the forest?
Right off the bat, I want to come out and say I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I thought the lead actress Seána Kerslake carried the movie well (wearing overalls the entire time might I add… more on that later). The setting of the Irish countryside was interesting and different from any other horror movie I’ve seen. More Irish horror movies, please! If you have good recommendations for Irish horror movies, let me know in the comments.
One of the things that I think worked well in this movie was the major metaphor. I’ve probably talked about this a bajillion times, and it’s not like this is a new idea, but basically, good horror works on a literal and metaphorical level. On a literal level, Sarah is horrified to find that her son has been replaced by a demon who is erratic, unpredictable, and worst of all, not her son.
On a metaphorical level, Sarah is afraid of her son becoming like his father, an erratic force in her life that she had to run away from in order to survive. The metaphor in this movie works, and that’s probably my second favorite aspect of the movie after the acting (James Quinn Markey as Chris is excellent as well).
My third favorite thing about this movie is the overalls. Sarah wears a lot of overalls. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a lot of images of the overalls for this post, so you’re just going to have to believe me. Someone needs to watch this movie and count how many different overalls Sarah wears. Why does Sarah wear so many overalls? I was watching it with friends, and we decided that it was probably her version of armor. After being a victim of abuse, she feels the need to cover herself to protect herself from the world. Her bangs serve this purpose as well. Underneath the bangs is a very distinct scar (or actually a wound, as it bleeds later). The overalls and the bangs are her means of protection.
Speaking of bangs, when Chris infiltrates Sarah’s bangs and reaches for her wound, this is one of the indications to Sarah that Chris is not her son. Of course, there are a lot of other indications, but this is the one that seems to make Sarah feel the most vulnerable and therefore the least powerful.
All of these parts of the movie worked really well. But there are some things that didn’t work as well for me. For instance, there were a lot of normal horror movie tropes that aren’t really played with at all. They’re just kind of given to us in the normal predictable way. For instance, the doppelgänger thing is something we’ve seen a lot in other horror movies, and obviously it’s been done better.
We also have the crazy old lady trope. When Sarah moves to this new place with her son, the first person they meet on the road is an old lady whom they almost run over. Later, Sarah finds out that this old woman was suspicious of her own son and might have done something to harm him. We know this is supposed to be foreshadowing for what’s going to happen to Sarah. This is pretty normal. Nothing new to see here.
The lighting in this movie is also pretty… dark. I get that’s supposed to be a mood thing, but also at points, things were just hard to see. And I just wanted Sarah to turn some lights on in her house, dangit. I don’t get why she didn’t have lightbulbs in her kitchen. Please.
I have read a lot of reviews of this movie that complain about the ending. I am not going to do that. And I’m not going to spoil the ending here for you either… because you should see this movie. What I will say is that I enjoyed the literal turn this movie took in the end. With a lot of “arty” horror movies, the creators end up leaving too much up for interpretation. Yes, this movie’s ending is still a little open, but we know for the most part what was going on in the whole movie, and I found the ending satisfying in that way. I know this is incredibly vague. I’m sorry.
The Hole in the Ground is currently available to rent on demand. Check it out!