The Hole (2009) represents an intersection of director Joe Dante’s sensibilities; a sort of coming together of Gremlins (1984) and Explorers (1985). This formula proves quite effective in creating a horror film for younger audiences that doesn’t condescend to its audience nor attempt to affect it via a multitude of cheap “jump scares”. Always the consummate cinephile, I have no doubts that Dante relished the task of making a film in 3D.
It’s immediately clear that Dante understands the strengths and weaknesses of 3D in how he stages the 3D effects. The Hole is littered with long, fluid camera moves whose traversal of space becomes a means of immersing the audience in the eerie world of the film. During the climactic battle in a dreamscape reminiscent of The 5,000 Fingers Of Dr. T (1953) Dante really uses the 3D effects to best advantage; evoking more of an atmosphere than pure terror.
Of course The Hole isn’t without Joe Dante’s sense of humor. Haley Bennett gets the most of the comedic dialogue and is able to deliver it without any sense of irony. Early in the film Bennett asks her new teenage neighbor, played by Chris Massoglia, “Do you all just play with your holes in Brooklyn” with total conviction. Devotees of the Joe Dante cult will also be thrilled that Dick Miller has a cameo that, due to its brevity, becomes one of the best reflexive gags in the film.
The Hole isn’t Joe Dante’s best film but it works. This uncompromising filmmaker elevates generic material once again by sheer force of his own personality and immeasurable adoration of the medium in which he works. In any other director’s hands The Hole would be just one more cookie-cutter horror film piece of trash.