The Hole

"Hole" is a psychological chiller in which four teenagers become trapped in a bunker, with tragic consequences. The trailer implies that the film is a slasher style teen flick of the obvious type, but instead we are treated to a more thoughtful and tense piece which carries you along from the first five minutes.

Trapped in a hole

The action begins with Liz (Thora Birch) stumbling down a country lane and into an exclusive public school. She is bloody and weak, and when she finds a phone to contact help can only offer a piercing scream.

A psychologist named Philippa (Embeth Davidtz) is called in to talk to the traumatised Liz, as she is the only survivor. Through her we discover that Liz, Mike (Desmond Harrington), Frankie (Keira Knightley) and Geoff (Laurence Fox), who are all pupils at the public school, have lied to the school and their parents in order to hide out in an abandoned bunker for three days and have a party.

Liz tells Phillipa that she had a serious crush on Mike, and that her friend, Martin (Daniel Brocklebank) offered to help her get together with him. He agreed to let Mike, Frankie and Geoff hide out in the bunker for three days, with the condition that Liz got to go too. However, when the four found themselves locked in the bunker without enough food or water things began to get nasty.

Liz explains that she is not one of the popular people at her school, and that Martin was her geeky best friend. Frankie would have been a cheerleader if the film was set in America, and Geoff is an army cadet and rugger-bugger. Mike is the son of an American Rock Star, and the object of desire for every girl at the school. It is not long before they fall to pieces, weak from thirst and hunger. Liz blames Martin, claiming that he locked them in because he was in love with her, and was angry about her feelings for Mike. But, the story of what really happened unfolds through flashback, and through the conversations between Liz and Phillipa.

The film is based on a book called "beyond the hole" by Guy Burt. A book he wrote when he was barely out of school. I can´t help wondering if he met people a little like the five teenagers. It is directed by Nick Hamm, who was resident director with the Royal Shakespeare Company for five years and won a number of BAFTA´s for his work in television. I think his experience shows, because the film is understated but has an edge to it.

"Hole" doesn´t overplay the claustrophobic nature of the space, and their confinement. It shows you enough to leave you guessing for a while, and avoids many horror cliches by adopting a more direct approach. I think this makes it more shocking, but some might miss the standard build up of a Hollywood horror film. I liked the eerie lighting, and the beam of light through the small section of glass in the door is an obvious, but effective device.

It is beautifully shot, but the bunker is a little too grotty for me to accept that four extremely rich teenagers would choose to party there. I suppose anything is better than the Geography trip they are supposed to be going on. The characters may initially seem as stereotypical as those in the breakfast club (a geek, a jock, a cheerleader and the sexiest guy in the school), but all of them play their parts well, and prove convincing. Keira Knightley (of "Bend it like Beckham" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" fame) is very convincing as Frankie. She makes the character more interesting than the usual obvious, vacuous, Barbie. Thora Birch delivers a good performance, and even manages a fairly credible English accent (most of the time).

This is not a British version of "Scream", or any of its subsequent incarnations (e.g. "The Faculty" or any of the "I know what you did..." type films). There are certainly some shocking scenes, and some of the teenagers die nastily, but any similarity ends there. The film is chilling because it shows the lengths that one of the characters will go to in order to feed an unhealthy obsession. It is satisfyingly different. The film also leaves enough unsaid to make you want to know more about the motivations of their jailer, and the environment which has fostered such a lack of compassion.

Reviewed by Jenny Hill

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