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Seville Pictures presents
The Hole (2001)

"This is how it works at Brayborn. If you want to exist, you have to be pretty. You have be thin. Everyone else is wallpaper."
- Liz (Thora Birch)

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: April 03, 2002

Stars: Thora Birch
Other Stars: Keira Knightly, Desmond Harrington, Daniel Brocklebank, Laurence Fox, Embeth Davidtz
Director: Nick Hamm

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (language, violence, graphic images, sexuality, brief full frontal male nudity)
Run Time: 01h:42m:20s
Release Date: March 12, 2002
UPC: 720917524429
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ CB+C+ C+

DVD Review

The Hole is a horror film/suspense thriller based on the book After the Hole, by Guy Burtt. Despite the presence of lead actress Thora Birch and familiar character actress Embeth Davidtz, it never played theatrically in the U.S. (though Miramax holds the rights). It's an interesting story, with stylish direction from Nick Hamm, but ultimately, it succumbs to genre clichés; a commendable effort, but a final product that isn't wholly successful.

Liz (Thora Birch) has been missing for 18 days along with three of her schoolmates, rich students at Brayborn Academy in England. She stumbles into the school, disheveled and bloody, picks up the phone, dials the police, and lets loose a piercing scream. It's an effective opening, but the film never reaches the same level of intensity or mystery (and, if you really think about it, never justifies it logically). It seems that she's spent the last weeks locked in an old bomb shelter, where she went with three friends for a few days of fun that turned into a nightmare.

Liz is interviewed by a psychologist (Davidtz), as the police attempt to discover what happened to the group of wealthy teens. She reveals that she and her friend Martin (Brocklebank) planned the party in the abandoned underground shelter, an effort to isolate her with Mike (Harrington), the object of her affection. But when Martin did not return after the agreed upon three days, the group was locked in, and Liz seems to have blocked from her memory most of what followed.

The Hole has a lot going for it, not the least of which is Nick Hamm's gritty direction. He makes excellent use of shadows and suggestion, some nifty editing techniques, and careful compositions. Likewise impressive is the strong cast. Birch, sporting a credible English accent, plays scared very well, though her character (and thus her performance) becomes a bit strained near the conclusion. Davidtz's role is underwritten, but she is good enough as the audience's point of view. The rest of the cast, mostly teen unknowns, is likewise decent, effectively melting down throughout their ordeal in the titular hole.

But the script, which begins with a compelling, seemingly layered mystery, dissolves at the halfway point into a traditional thriller. The characters, which had been more or less realistic, suddenly begin to suffer from "horror idiocy," making all the wrong moves in every situation. The conclusion is particularly frustrating, as it presents several large plot holes (negating the opening 20 minutes, for one thing), and what should have been a compelling psychological thriller becomes just another movie about a psycho.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This is a pretty good transfer from the folks at Seville. Black level is spot on, which is essential in such a dark film, and even in dim scenes, shadow delineation and detail remain excellent. I noticed no serious artifacting or edge enhancement, and just a bit of aliasing in the opening flyover shots. The print shows some occasional marks, as well as a bit of grain, but overall, this is fine work.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: Though The Hole was released theatrically in 5.1, this disc contains only a 2.0 mix. The different elements taken together sound fine. Dialogue is always clear and understandable. The electronic music score makes good use of LFE and expands across the mains. There is even some limited directionality in the front mains with the presentation of sound effects (though the surrounds stay just about mute throughout). But as a whole, the track is problematic, simply because the score is so much louder than the dialogue (and there are some very, very quiet dialogue moments throughout the film). The music never obscures the speech, but frequently I found myself lunging for the volume control, whether I was being blasted by the score or having trouble making out the dialogue.

Audio Transfer Grade: C+

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
Cast and Crew Filmographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Fourth Angel, Eye of the Beholder, Mexico City
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Nick Hamm
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL
Layers Switch: 00h:51m:59s

Extra Extras:
  1. Still Gallery
Extras Review: Seville has put together a decent extras package for this Canada-exclusive release. Director Nick Hamm contributes a commentary track that is very difficult to sit through, as he sounds rather unenthusiastic, but there is some worthwhile information provided on the stylized look of the film and the motivations for said (you just have to sit through a lot of "what's going on on-screen" narration to get to it).

The collection of deleted scenes is more interesting. The 8 clips run about nine minutes, and though some are simple extensions of scenes still in the film, others hint at a different original structure, one that made much of the ending less of a surprise "twist," which might have eliminated some of the plot holes and vague motivations throughout. An alternate ending is also provided, a ludicrous "one year later" extension that feels formulaic and ridiculous at the same time.

A minute of stills from the film set to the score make up the Still Gallery. Rounding out the extras are cast bios (throughout the movie, Keira Knightly's resemblance to Natalie Portman kept bugging me; her bio confirms she doubled for the actress in The Phantom Menace), a trailer for the feature, and spots for The Fourth Angel, Eye of the Beholder, and Mexico City.

Extras Grade: C+

 

Final Comments

An ambitious psychological thriller with a mild case of the stupids, The Hole is worth seeing, but probably only once. Still, it's far better than many recent Hollywood teen thrillers, and I can't fathom why it never played in U.S. theaters.

 


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