The Hole (3 stars)

The Hole

(12A) 91min

1980s wunderkind Joe Dante will forever have his name associated with hits Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins and Innerspace, but he’s been missing in action cinematically since 2003’s flop Looney Tunes: Back In Action. Fantasy adventure The Hole returns Dante to the fray with a modest attempt to recapture past glories, as three kids find a trapdoor in their basement that leads to a world constructed from their subconscious fears, presented in patchy 3D that only really has an impact in the last 20 minutes, although a scene in which a Eric Cartman toy is lowered into the audience’s faces on a fishing line may be a first.

After their mother Susan (Meet the Parents’ Teri Polo) moves their family to the suburbs, Dane Thompson (Chris Massoglia) and his brother Lucas (Nathan Gamble) discover the mysterious portal, enlisting the help of girl-next-door Julie (Haley Bennett) to investigate. Supernatural manifestations range from a policeman with the back of his head missing, a ghostly child and a demonic clown, forcing the threesome to delve into The Hole and solve the mystery.

The Hole is unusual in that it’s a horror film but one aimed squarely at thrill-seeking children, who might just get a few chills. Dante gives it a flourish by indulging his love of cinematic in-jokes, including his usual cameo from veteran Dick Miller, amusingly cast here as a pizza delivery boy. The Hole needs all the knowing humour it can muster, because Dante’s old-school pacing may well frustrate the most pro-horror of youngsters.

General release, Wed 22 Sep.

The Hole trailer

The Hole

  • 3 stars
  • 2009
  • US
  • 1h 31min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Joe Dante
  • Written by: Mark L Smith, Guillermo Del Toro (uncredited)
  • Cast: Teri Polo, Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble

Three children find a mildly terrifying trapdoor in their basement and decide to investigate, which seems silly in hindsight. A quasi return to form from director Dante with a horror film aimed at thrill-seeking children, but packed with cinematic in-jokes which may go over their heads.