Lee Cronin (director)
01 March 2019 (released)
27 February 2019
This writer is not entirely sure why there was such a change of mind over Hole in the Ground the second time around. The first screening made little or no impression, and other than a few jumps and good performances, little to commend it. Seeing it again was a revelation with everything about it hitting the marks.
Creating and building tension laced with menace is not an easy skill, and neither are effective jump cuts. Director and writer Lee Cronin has both down to a T as Sarah (Seána Kerslake) moves around her newly acquired old house. Permeated with noises, looking for her son Chris (James Quinn Markey), these sequences are chilling generating a dread atmosphere. And later when the viewers’ attention is apparently focused…
But to start at the beginning the premise of a mother and son in a large rural house setting out to make a new life is familiar. The reasons for them moving to the area are not spelled out though become clear as the film progresses. The house looks battered and worn. Semi isolated it borders a dense forbidding forest.
Settling in Sarah begins redecorating while Chris as children are wont to do wanders about, and he wanders into the forest after being told not to. Sara finds him in the forest as well as a massive, shifting sinkhole. But one stormy night Chris seemingly disappears into the forest again, panicking she calls the police only for Chris to appear out of the shadows. But there’s been a change, and Sarah notices the boy growing more distant, his eyes soulless.
Adding to the strangeness are the encounters with Noreen Brady (Kati Outinen), a seemingly demented old lady, who swears that Chris is not her son. In one encounter she smashes her head on the car window. James Cosmo as Des Brady, Noreen’s husband, is her rock though he knows something isn’t right he’s to stubborn or scared to admit or confront whatever is happening in the area.
A tragedy hits the small community which leads to something of a revelation. Sarah pursues this, not sure at all that she can believe her own senses and all the time Cronin tightening up the mid- section of the film, and then really letting go in the last third.
The performances from Kerslake and Quinn Markey are excellent, you can sense a genuine rapport, albeit tense, between them at the beginning of the film. This is a tricky thing to pull off as sometimes children in these sorts of parts can just come over as creepy, here Chris is very unsettling.
It’s a remarkably assured debut from Cronin. From the opening with Sarah driving her battered car down a forest lined road and the world turning upside down before the titles appear, it looks wonderful with some fine directorial flourishes and beautiful landscapes using the widescreen ratio to maximum effect.