The Hole in the Ground review: A parent’s worst nightmare comes true in a new Irish horror that taps into pretty much ever phobia out there. 

Vertigo Releasing

The changeling is a supernatural creature that haunted parent’s nightmares for centuries. Prominent in several culture’s folklore, a changeling is a being that steals a child, replicates their appearance, and returns to the child’s home to take over that identity. Your precious bundle of joy getting swapped-out without your knowledge is a terrifying prospect, and one that new Irish indie horror The Hole in the Ground addresses.

Directed by first-time feature director Lee Cronin, The Hole in the Ground follows a young single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) and her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) as they adjust to life as just the two of them. After Chris goes missing, Sarah discovers a massive sinkhole in the woods near her house, one which hides a deadly secret. When Chris reappears, but isn’t quite himself, Sarah begins to question whether he really is who she believes him to be.

If you’re a sufferer of arachnophobia, claustrophobia, and even trypophobia (the fear of collections of small holes – look it up), then The Hole in the Ground will make for a harrowing viewing. Throw in some live burial and lots of darkness, and Cronin has crafted a horror that checks-off nearly every base human fear going. So many things thrown together make for a more unsettling watch because even when there’s nothing really ‘scary’ on screen, there’s always something to make you uncomfortable.

The camera is wielded beautifully, there’s an opening shot wherein the camera suddenly inverts and what was above is now below and vice versa; that is simply stunning. It instantly catches the audience off-guard and sets the unease off immediately. Later on we get some great under-the-door work, obscuring our full view of actions. That again increases the fear level. Then there’s a tunnel scene that gets in nice and close, and brings The Descent flashbacks.

Featuring a lot of high intensity scenes, both physically and emotionally, The Hole in the Ground thankfully has two very good leads. Praise for both Kerslake and Markey has been a common theme in reviews out of Sundance, and it’s easy to see why. Kerslake is convincing in her portrayal of a mother on the brink of madness, and Markey is so much more than just a creepy kid in a scary movie. Both are sure to have strong futures ahead of them.

Mothers and their sons in peril seems to have become a relatively common arena for horror stories. Whilst The Hole in the Ground does occasionally fall into the tropes made by these previous films, it does have enough originality to stand out. Phobics beware, you’re in for a scare.

The Hole in the Ground review by Kat Hughes, March 2019.

The Hole in the Ground is in UK cinemas now. 

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The Hole in the Ground