“Changeling” legends are common throughout European folklore. While the stories vary by country, each generally revolves around a supernatural entity taking the place of a child. But Lee Cronin’s first feature goes much deeper than just a folklore re-telling.
The Hole In The Ground uses the folktale as a backdrop in a more contemporary setting to bring us, on the surface, a simple story about a mother and son. But within this story, Cronin layers in beautiful themes of motherhood and overcoming abuse without ever getting heavy handed or triggering victims. Instead, he allows the natural dialogue and metaphors of the film show us the emptiness that comes with betrayal.
The story follows Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son Charlie (James Quinn Markey) as they try to build a new life in a rural, backwoods town. We never find out what prompted their move, or what became of Charlie’s father, but the movie gives us enough of the puzzle to piece together. Their newly tranquil existence is disrupted when Charlie’s behavior begins to change after a brief encounter in the adjacent woods.
A24, for better or worse, is famous for the so-called “slow burn.” While The Hole In The Ground does little to shake that reputation, don’t make the mistake of passing it off as another do-nothing creep-fest like The Witch or It Comes At Night. Instead, Cronin turns up the heat slowly but steadily, like the proverbial frog in the frying pan. His well-paced first feature kicks off very early in the first act, spending minimal time with the necessary setup.
The Hole In The Ground also stands out from the pack by combining an overall creepy atmosphere with legitimate, well-executed scares. While falling short of a true ‘creature feature,’ the film plays with the concept. Ultimately, it culminates in a tense, emotional climax that feels a bit like The Descent meets Hereditary. Throw in an uncertain resolution, reminiscent of films like The Thing, and it has all the makings of an instant classic.
The Hole In The Ground is available now on DirecTV and VOD on March 1, 2019.
‘The Hole In The Ground’ [Review]
A gripping, tense “slow burn” that kicks off quickly and steadily ramps up into a nail-biting climax and uneasy resolution. Layered over themes of parenthood, loss, trust, and abuse, The Hole In The Ground is one we’ll be talking about for years to come.