Monday, September 15, 2014

The Hole (2001)

Since I’ve been doing this blog a bit more regularly, I’m trying to write at least part of a post pretty quickly afterward watching the movie. That has not been the case for the film that my horror lady friends and I watched this past week, The Hole (2001). Also the end of this post is going to spoil the end of the movie, so if you have any plans on ever watching this one, skip this post entirely please. 

Let me start with a few simple facts:
- This is not to be confused with The Hole (2009), a self-described “3D thriller that explores the fears and secrets buried deep within the human mind.”
- This is also not to be confused with The Hole (1998), described by Wikipedia as a Taiwanese drama-musical.
- This is a British film that, while set in 2001, screams 1996. That part is pretty excellent. There is a giant inflatable pink chair made of translucent plastic that I swear I saw in the Claire’s store at the Ross Park Mall in the mid-90s. 
- Thora Birch portrays the main female character and she does a serviceable British accent for at least 85% of the movie.
- This is one of Keira Knightley’s first movie roles and she is, of course, perfectly British.
- For a few days afterward, a series of emails and texts went back and forth between us trying to figure out some of the plot points, which is a little bit odd because (see next point)
- This movie was not good.
- Partway through, I commented that “this is like the shitty Rashomon of horror” which was, even with the qualifier “shitty”, still a fairly generous statement.

The movie begins with a cold open in which we see Thora Birch—whose character’s name is irrelevant because I will refer to her only as Thora Birch—staggering down a road, covered in blood. A missing persons sign flaps from a telephone pole. She lurches into what appears to be a school and screams. We see that she is covered in wounds and very agitated even before a doctor tries to examine her in the OB-GYN way which causes her to freak out.

From there, we are treated to 20 minutes of backstory: Thora Birch is a mean girl in this prep school; she’s in love with this guy Mike who is the son of an American rock star and recently became single; she’s BFFs with both this weird sociopathic guy Martin and the beautiful but vapid Frankie (Knightley). Thora Birch realizes that Mike doesn’t even know she exists (the quintessential teenage pain) and Martin says he can help her. He takes her, Frankie, Mike and Mike’s toadie Geoffrey to this World War II bunker in the middle of the woods where they can have a three-day party because they have somehow managed to bail on a field trip to Wales. On the third day Martin is supposed to come and let them out…but he never arrives. They are trapped in the bunker.

Okay, first major issue. Being locked in this underground hideout was clearly meant to give you a feeling of claustrophobia except that the bunker is legit bigger than my house. It contains a separate bathroom that has multiple urinals. There’s a balcony. It’s not even a remotely small space, and I felt like that was a huge missed opportunity.

Eventually we realize that we are in a flashback as told by Thora Birch to the lady cop who is working on her missing persons case. We then meet the lady cop's partner, whom I mention only because we decided he looked like a weird combination of Jay Mohr and Dave Coulier. It was uncanny. Is this bunker made of………wood?? Anyway, Thora Birch tells a version of the story that basically could never have happened in a million years, which leads into a different version of the story but now it’s being narrated by Martin, who has been brought in for questioning about the matter.

You know, the more I’m thinking about this the less I feel like trying to explain what actually happened/ how we came about it and instead I am just going to complain.

Nobody dies a scary death. All three of the deaths that happen in the bunker and the one death that happens outside the bunker are pretty dull. One character seriously just dies of heart failure in the middle of night off-camera. Like, imagine you’re a horror screenwriter and you’re like “Yes, yes, good, now we need this character to die…what is scary, what is scary…hmm…ah yes! A cardiopulmonary failure! That’ll get ‘em! That gets ‘em every time!”  *clears off spot on bookshelf for Oscar*

The one character that dies outside of the bunker is pushed off a footbridge into raging waters... but this person is also CASUALLY SITTING ON THE EDGE OF A BRIDGE WITH THE PERSON HE KNOWS TO BE THE KILLER.  JUST WHISTLING AWAY HERE ON THE EDGE OF A BRIDGE. What! What! There is no real suspense, we don’t even see him get pushed off (this movie seems to have blown its entire budget on Thora Birch, who apparently pulled down seven figures for her role and thus they could not afford to make a dummy to toss over the edge.)

Even the death of “hunky” Mike, a moment that is seemingly meant to be the denouement of the story, is actually pretty lame. I am putting hunky in quotes because in several scenes in this movie, he looks like he’s wearing a wig that may have been worn in a high school production of Spartacus. It’s not a good look. In fact, nothing about Mike is good and he is most definitely not worth all the trouble that Thora Birch goes to in order to seduce him. He doesn't even participate in the full frontal nudity scene involving Geoffrey that appears in a flashback. Oh, did I not mention there is full frontal male nudity in this movie? God bless you, British cinema.

In the case of Netflix good or garbage, it’s hard for me to come down on either side of the line with The Hole. It’s definitely not a good movie, but it’s not garbage either. It’s not scary, it’s not particularly violent and there’s no real suspense—it’s almost more of a weird crime drama than anything else. We discussed it quite a bit afterwards but I don’t know if that’s because it was thought-provoking (which seems unlikely) or because there were so many bizarre red herrings in the story. It did incorporate something you don't see very often in horror, which is a woman as the villain, so that was actually pretty fun. Ultimately, I guess you’re on your own with this one-- I am no help to you whatsoever. Sorry boutcha!

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