By Naomi Roper
Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake ) is in the process of rebuilding her life with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey) in a rural, backwood town. One day the two of them discover a perfect circular sinkhole in the forest bordering their home. When Chris vanishes from his bed one night and re-appears somewhat changed Sarah finds herself facing the battle of her life – is her broken past causing her mental state to fracture or are there far more sinister forces at play?
It would be fair to say that The Hole in the Ground is perhaps not strikingly original. The central conceit is one I’ve seen a fair few times before (most recently in one of the entries in the anthology film Holidays) and the ending riffs heavily off The Descent. However, that’s a minor trifle. The Hole in the Ground is a supremely classy, unsettling horror movie that will shred your nerves to pieces. From the very first scene where director Lee Cronin (who also wrote the film along with Stephen Shields) inverts the shot of Sarah and her son driving so that they seem to be driving forever downwards into hell The Hole in the Ground is a masterclass in building tension. There is a pervasive atmosphere of cold dread from the moment the O’Neill’s appear on screen and Cronin never lets the tension lapse for a second. The hole itself is a thing of horror – massive (and not chained off, health and safety nightmare that!) and just somehow physically repulsive. It’s just a sinkhole and yet it feels truly evil. Cronin is also good at unsettling images. Sarah’s fugue like states where she envisions her son becoming ever more odd and violent are quietly distressing and are beautifully juxtaposed with her seemingly angelic son charming everyone around him.
Seána Kerslake is a major find and deserves to be a huge star. Kerslake has that very rare “everywoman” quality where you just like her the second you see her. She’s down to earth and relatable and from the moment Sarah appears on screen you are firmly rooting for her. Kerslake beautifully underplays the horrors she is clearly running from (an abusive relationship) and her terror that her mind is turning against her when she starts to become convinced that something is very wrong with her son. She is ably backed by James Quinn Markey as Chris who can switch from angelic to Midwich Cuckoo terrifying in a heartbeat. A fine cast of character actors also appear including the always great James Cosmo as a man struggling with the death of his young son years before.
I was expecting a punchier ending than we got (it would have been very easy for them to take that route) but what we get instead is deeply emotionally satisfying. The Hole in the Ground is classy horror with a superb star making performance from Seána Kerslake.
The Hole in the Ground opens in cinemas across the UK and Ireland on 1st March 2019 from Vertigo Releasing and Wildcard Distribution.
Follow Naomi on twitter at @khaleesi_101