I was trembling when I first realized Lee Cronin’s directorial effort, The Hole in the Ground, reminded me to The Babadook. It’s definitely two different specimens, but they both share a similar topic and approach: the haunting of dysfunctional parental challenge depicted as a low-key rural horror. On whatever sense, it’s as creepy.
The Hole in the Ground sets in rural area in Ireland, where a runaway mother, Sarah (Seána Kerslake) live in a secluded house by the woods with her son, Chris (James Quinn Markey). It was quietly disturbing from the beginning as the camera keeps confining Sarah and Chris in a contrast framing against the background. Danger seems to be lurking anywhere and Sarah seems to be the most vulnerable victim of it here. She hasn’t seemed to recover from the abusive trauma she implicitly experienced; the decision to look after the son by herself doesn’t seem well-planned, especially when the son’s showing a sign of frustration himself. That seems like a cue for the horror to come into their life.
The horror is calculated. After an incident, which involves a hole in the ground, the overwhelmed Sarah seems to be convinced that her son is not her son. Cronin, co-writing the script with Stephen Shields, knows quite well how to play with perspectives. Just like the hole mentioned previously, The Hole in the Ground seems to be hiding in the plain sight. At times, Cronin leads us to believe that Chris is not Chris we’ve seen earlier in the movie; but, instead a changeling. He shows a completely different personality traits, which only Sarah and audiences are aware of. At the same time, Cronin plays the old trick making it as if Sarah’s parental anxiety overshadows her rational mind as a consequence of her trauma, which hasn’t perfectly healed. The ‘hole in the ground’ seems to be an allegory of an open hole in Sarah’s life; but, Cronin doesn’t bother to clarify it until late.
Who knows that, after all, The Hole in the Ground is a pure Irish lore, which borrows the entire spooks from creepy local myth? Cronin abandons all the psychological allusion which he seems to have crafted precisely in the beginning and makes way to a full-frontal traditional horror. As it unravels, the horror loses its grip and, if not for Kerslake’s subtle performance, subtleties. Even so, the creepiness doesn’t fade even when the movie never tries too hard to showcase jump-scares. The horror in The Hole in the Ground might have the identity crisis, whether to stick as a psychological one, a mythical one or both; but, it never fails to scare.
The Hole in the Ground (2019)
Horror Directed by: Lee Cronin Written by: Lee Cronin, Stephen Shields Starred by: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey Runtime: 90 mins