‘Darkness hides within’
The Hole in the Ground is a 2019 Irish-British-Finnish supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Lee Cronin (shorts: Ghost Train; Through the Night) from a screenplay written with Stephen Shields (Zombie Bashers series). The movie stars Seána Kerslake, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen and James Quinn Markey.
Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey).
A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home…
” …The Hole in the Ground operates within mostly recognizable genre tropes, to only sporadically effective results. The flickering basement lightbulb, for instance, has long since lost its ability to engender fear. On the other hand, the use of negative space in a frame that forces us to anticipate what might suddenly be seen there is a horror mainstay for damned good reasons.” David Bax, Battleship Pretension
“Everything is just so compact and economical. Cronin utilizes flawless pacing, ensuring you never get bored as the film builds toward its rousing climax. The film rests on the shoulders of Seána Kerslake’s performance as Sarah, mother of the troubled Chris. She is a unique and exciting horror character.” Evan Saathoff, Birth. Movies. Death.
” …just as the film starts picking up the pace and introduce new ideas that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it rushes through the plot in what feels like 10 minutes. After waiting for the real fun to start, it is disappointing that the film doesn’t savor in what makes it special.” Rafael Motamayor, Bloody Disgusting
” …despite the befuddling denouement, The Hole in the Ground is, for the most part, too conventional to live up to the hype.” Kalleem Aftab, Cineuropa
” …it’s a bit unfortunate that all of this builds us into the tale of a boy who is no longer himself. It’s been done ad nauseum and it continues to be done (The Prodigy, anyone?), but it would be unfair to say that The Hole in the Ground doesn’t do it well enough to at least be enjoyable. An overall exceptional feature-length debut for Cronin…” Jeannie Blue, Cryptic Rock
“For the most part, Cronin avoids jump scares – although a couple of vivid nightmare sequences do go for the quick shock – and crafts an atmosphere of pure dread, combined with astonishing and immersive sound design. He even throws in a bit of The Descent-esque claustrophobic horror in case you were getting too comfortable.” Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy
Reminding us of the next Hailey Joel Osment, Markey carefully measures facial ticks and movement to suddenly become another person altogether. It is pretty wonderful work. We were also impressed with Lee Cronin’s wonderful visual sense.” Norman Gidney, Film Threat
” …there’s a sense that each individual idea is stronger than the movie surrounding it. When the movie comes to an end and its secrets have been revealed, it doesn’t amount to all that much. But that’s not to say that Cronin doesn’t show some flair here, as he seems at home lensing slow-burn chills….” Tom Beasley, Flickering Myth
” …sustains a pleasant aura of menace even when it’s not being outright frightening. Though perhaps seeming a bit slight, that’s not necessarily a negative; The Hole in the Ground plays more like a chilling short story more than a full-fledged novel. Its aims aren’t at all grand, but it’s still a frightening tale.” Brian Marks, Goomba Stomp
” …Henry James-ian, Turn of the Screw-style psychological ambiguity is abandoned by the last half hour, which then devolves into a straight-up creature feature that’s much less engaging. Nevertheless, props are due to Kerslake for her intense, wounded performance and fine direction that gets the best out of wee Markey, a kid who has a haunted look pretty much from the off.” Leslie Felperin, The Hollywood Reporter
“Viewers primarily seeking a unique premise may find The Hole in the Ground disappointingly derivative, but for horror fans weary of movies that favour heavy plotting over the sort of brooding atmosphere and chills on offer here, Cronin’s debut suggests he’s a filmmaker who understands what truly makes this genre tick.” Eric Hillis, The Movie Waffler
“Hole in the Ground digs a little deeper in its third act, switching from cheap gotcha scares to a psychological trauma that immerses the viewer into Sarah’s psychological terror while expanding on her post-divorce scars. Stephen McKeon for provides an excellent score too, filled with squealing strings, to build up some kind of atmosphere.” Jordan Ruimy, The Playlist
“Though Cronin and Stephen Shields’ script displays some compelling symmetry in its articulation of the terrifying concept of people we know the best looking unfamiliar, and has a clear visual motif (the presence of mirrors and distortions, kicking off with Chris looking at himself in a fun house mirror), it becomes frustrating to wait for this horror movie to be more than just loud.” Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
“While the atmosphere and specific visual tricks Cronin employs aren’t especially groundbreaking for this kind of tale, he deploys them at a steady, evenhanded pace that draws you into Sarah’s plight. Tom Comerford’s moody cinematography does a lot to keep you on edge, though Stephen McKeon’s heavy, portentous music tries a little too hard…” Michael Gingold, Rue Morgue
“Cronin perhaps enjoys his horror clichés a tad too much – the cowled figure standing in the middle of the road, the bumps in the night. But he also has some original, visceral shocks up his sleeve, and the coolness not to dwell on them but move swiftly on.” Demetrios Matheou, Screen Daily