Friday, August 28, 2009

A Frank Review of "The Hole" (2001)

The Short Version? Preppies go down the hole.
What Is It? Thriller.
Who Is In It? Enid. Keira Knightley.
Should I See It? Yes.

Four teenagers have been missing from an English boarding school for eighteen days. One returns, looking like she's just dug her way out of a premature grave. The police and the audience have a host of questions. Answers will be along indirectly, via a serpentine path.

My first viewing of The Hole was fairly gut-wrenching, watching terrible circumstances unfold amongst young actors who, despite playing quite flawed characters, are still made sympathetic through solid performances. I'm quite fond of Thora Birch, because she consistently chooses the least commercially viable and grimiest material that comes her way. Maybe she gets it from being raised by porn star parents? Her accent is reasonably convincing, and she's easy on the eyes. Keira Knightley makes her proper supporting debut, in no way disproving her eventual signature accolade, "the sexiest tomboy beanpole on the planet." In her case, there will be tits, and you will cry hallelujah. The boys are damned handsome as well, if you go for that sort of thing, and sell what could have been slight personalities as developed. This film is rather dark, and fates unkind, so fair warning.

My second viewing was less resonant. The music is lame, and the direction just stylized enough to irritate. If you were lulled by the story into missing the typical thriller set-ups and cliches initially, you'll kick yourself on review. Once you know the end point, you'll be surprised by how much less tension remains, and how little violence there actually is for most of the running time. Still, it's good for what it is, and if you give the whole thing a bit of thought, you can close most of the glaring plot holes that might interfere with your enjoyment. Just try to ignore the deleted/extended footage reel, which sets up what would undoubtedly have been a nerve-pinching sequel that would give even Sharon Stone second thoughts. No danger of it ever coming to pass, as Dimension Films sat on the flick for two years after its UK release before dumping it on video. Considering the tripe that gets distribution routinely, The Hole deserved a chance, but try not to expect too much of it regardless.

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