- 01 Mar 19
Seána Kerslake shines in enjoyably creepy horror.
Horror has long explored the fears and challenges of parenting, and the relationship between mother and child comes pre-loaded with an emotional and bodily connection, as well as a link society often treats as mystical. When these relationships break down, the two potential taboos of a mother rejecting her child and a child being evil can be unnerving to the point of becoming contraceptive.
Films like The Exorcist, Hereditary and The Babadook have all explored this relationship, and Irish director Lee Cronin plays with familiar horror dilemmas and dynamics in his debut feature, The Hole In The Ground.
Rising star Seána Kerslake plays Sarah, a mother escaping an abusive relationship with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey). Moving into a dilapidated country home, Sarah’s first renovation project involves wallpapering the entire house with hexagons straight from The Shining. Indeed, her decisions generally are a one-way street to horror: indulging the local crazy woman (Kati Outinen); not alerting anyone to the existence of an ominous, village-sized sinkhole in the woods; and doubting her instincts when Chris returns from the eerie forest, and seems… changed.
It’s not a new story, but Cronin knows this, creating instead an atmosphere that’s satisfyingly jumpy and unsettling, whilst also referencing countless classic horrors. As Sarah is torn between fearing her son and fearing that she’s losing her mind, the rising tension is aided by Tom Comerford’s shadowy cinematography and Stephen McKeon’s (somewhat overbearing) score.
The final act does see Cronin stumble slightly, as he is forced to create a mythology for the woods and that damn sinkhole. Unfortunately, he rushes through it, leaving too many questions unanswered, and also throwing the slow-burning pace jarringly off-balance.
But the film is a great showcase for the sublime Kerslake, who conveys approximately 17 different emotions in a single glance at her son. She’s so talented it’s scary.
Directed by Lee Cronin. Starring Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall. 90 mins. In cinemas today.