The Hole in the Ground

THE HOLE IN THE GROUND ,UK, 2019.  Starring Seana Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen.Directed by Lee Cronin. 90 minutes.  Rated M (Horror, violence and coarse language).

This is a psychological horror film, though the explicit horror comes in the latter part of the film, even to the presence of mysterious monsters.

A clue is given in the opening sequence, Sarah (Seana Kerslake) at the fair with her son, Charlie (James Quinn Markey) looking at themselves in mirrors, distorted mirrors, sometimes humorous, sometimes monstrous images of themselves. And the suggestion that the audience, looking at the screen, is also looking in a mirror and seeing all kinds of distortions.

For audiences who assume that horror films have touches of the supernatural, have images of monsters, gory moments, this film will be quite a disappointment. Rather, it uses slow buildup, a psychological portrait of a mother and son – intimating suggestions of something not quite normal, upsets in the relationship, gradual revelation of what has happened to the son.

The setting is Ireland, a remote town, ordinary homes and school, but overcast weather on the roads, scenes in a forest – and the sudden revelation of the hole in the ground which turns out to be not just a whole but a vast and deep/wide sinkhole, a crater. And it is shown frequently, evocative of an atmosphere where something mysterious is going on.

As with this kind of storytelling, one way of looking at it is taking it as realistic, home, relationships, school, a loving mother dealing with her son, with the neighbours – even though there is a mysterious woman who appears on the road, threatening, rescued by her husband.

On the other hand, a way of looking at it is in terms of imagination of the central character, going into her mind, her creating the mysterious situations, a psychological drama.

This reviewer had not come across a psychological condition, Capgras Delusion (named after the scientist who identified the syndrome). We can be indebted to a blogger on the IMDb who suggests that the mother, Sarah, has the syndrome, and is possessed by it. Wikipedia makes a suggestion that Capgras Delusion is a ‘delusional misidentification syndrome’, someone believing that a relative or a person close to them is an imposter, not the real self. Watching the film with this in mind makes a lot of sense of the characters, the behaviour, the illusions.

The possibility is raised by the demented woman on the road, believing her dead son was not her real son, warning Sarah that Charlie is not her real son.

If interpreted as a psychological thriller within the central character’s mind, it works very well, slow pace, not in the sense of a monster film, though, as has been said, monsters do appear,

it is a kind of hallucinatory horror thriller.

Rialto                                        Released April 13th

Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.

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