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Reel Review: ‘The Hole in the Ground’

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Seana Kerslake plays a single mother who moves with her son to the countryside for a change of pace, which leads to an isolation she was not prepared for. PHOTO COURTESY OF BANKSIDE FILMS

By Anna Husted EBS FILM CRITIC

“The Hole in the Ground” is “The Babadook” meets “The Descent.” It doesn’t bring very much new to the horror genre, but like most horror films it is a treatise on current times—specifically tackling issues centered on feminism and isolationism.

Up-and-coming actor Seana Kerslake plays Sarah, mother of Chris, who is left to raise her son alone for an undisclosed reason. The father figure either died or mysteriously disappeared from their lives, but whatever happened to him makes Sarah sad, so she and her son move to a new town. Within the first 10 minutes of the film Sarah notices slight changes in Chris’ demeanor upon their arrival in the new house; she ignores this until the old woman down the road from them stops them in the middle of the highway to tell her that Chris “is not your son.”

After the old woman’s death, from suffocation, the horror ramps up. I will not say whether Chris or Sarah, or both, are possessed because it’s not obvious until the end and guessing is half the fun.  

One of my favorite things about “The Hole in the Ground” is its runtime. At 1 hour, 30 minutes, it’s a tightly edited and entertaining horror movie. In the digital age the art of editing is losing ground, so I loved that director Lee Cronin jumped right into the action and suspense with upside down, twisting shots of the highway and the caves that run underneath it.

“The Hole in the Ground” is Cronin’s debut feature film, and he plays on our previous horror film tropes by directing Kerslake as an overprotective, am-I-going-crazy-or-is-this-real mother. The film’s climax gives the power back to the mother, which historically horror films do not do. Cronin does not belittle Sarah’s situation, but presents it as something only she can understand and get through.

Post-viewing “The Hole in the Ground” my burning question is: Why do people always buy a house in the woods away from society and think nothing will go wrong? Horror film error No. 1. This sentiment speaks volumes to us in Montana because we cannot help but be isolated due to the vastness of our state. Isolation goes against human nature and horror films show us this again and again.

Do not let your kids bury their pets in the cemetery on the back 40 and don’t spend a winter alone in a hotel in the Colorado Rockies–something bad will happen. Horror films are the best at calling out our need to be a part of society. Social interaction is as important as dieting or exercise: Without it we are lost.

“The Hole in the Ground” is worth watching if you enjoy horror films, but it’s no “Us” or “Get Out” so there’s no rush to see it. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year and is now available to rent on iTunes or Google Play.

Anna Husted has a master’s in film studies from New York University. In Big Sky she can be found hiking a mountain or at the movies at Lone Peak Cinema. When not gazing at the silver screen or watching her new favorite TV show, she’s reading, fishing or roughhousing with her cat, Indiana Jones.

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