The Hole (2001) Horror Movie Review - Underrated Claustrophobic Thriller Fun

Horror, Thriller | 102 Min
Cover image from horror movie The Hole (2001)
  • Director: Nick Hamm
  • Actors: Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington, Daniel Brocklebank, Laurence Fox, Keira Knightley, Embeth Davidtz
  • Writers: Ben Court, Caroline Ip
  • Producers: Lisa Bryer, Jeremy Bolt, Pippa Cross
  • Country: United Kingdom
  • Language: English
  • Parental: Drug Use, Language, Sexual Content, Peril, Nudity (of A Minor)
  • Horror, Thriller | 102 Min

Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.

Welcome to Knockout Horror. We are going back to the early 2000’s for today’s review and to a movie that is somewhat underappreciated. Starring Thora Birch (American Beauty) and a 15 year old Keira Knightley. We are checking out Nick Hamm’s horror, thriller movie The Hole from 2001.

Genuinely Underrated

I really feel like this movie flies under people’s radars a little bit. We recently featured it in one of our Toxic Friendships lists and talking about it conjured up memories of what a solid movie it is. Following the story of a group of friends who lock themselves in an underground bunker to avoid having to partake in a school field trip. Only to find that they are completely trapped with no hope of help or escape.

Screenshot from horror movie The Hole (2001)

The Hole moves quickly from a coming of age drama to a tense and suspenseful thriller. With Hamm and writers Ben Court and Caroline Ip carefully navigating the fine line between coincidental situation and malicious, deliberate, event expertly to keep both believability and suspense alive throughout. And that is where The Hole succeeds so well. Everything that happens feels feasible and real.

Everyone can relate to wanting to have a good time. We have all been forced into those situations where you would much rather be having fun than taking part in something utterly boring, as well. The plot here is genuinely relatable, especially for younger people. The folly of youth has lead many a poor soul to an early grave which lends an authentic sense of feasibility to what takes place here. It is all the more impactful when the horror element kicks in later on and the movie reveals itself to be something a lot more shocking than initially assumed.

An Oppressive Environment

Another thing that works so well about The Hole is the claustrophobic nature of the bunker. What, initially, seems to be a fun adventure quickly tuns on its head. The friends plan to booze it up and engage in a weekend of debauchery. But all of that is pushed aside as soon as the friends realise they are trapped. The sense of desperation in the characters is palpable as the reality of their situation dawns on them.

Screenshot from horror movie The Hole (2001)

Hopeful attempts to find a way out quickly evaporate leading to more panic and more and more anxiety. Tensions between the group mount and it feels as though the walls are continuously closing in as things go from bad to worse. It’s a genuinely fantastic example of making the most of a limited cast and a limited setting. You can almost feel the tension as relationships break down and the character’s begin to lose their minds.

When the big reveal comes, it appears, somewhat, out of the blue and shocks you. Leading to a conclusion that you might not see coming. Of course, it’s not perfect by any stretch. The movie drags its heels a bit here and there. Some of the more sexual scenes feel needless given some of the underage cast members and not everyone will stay entertained by the self contained nature of the story. But The Hole manages to stay engaging, for the most part, despite its limitations. Even utilising an interesting crime investigation side story to keep things fresh and to give the viewer the occasional break from the confines of the bunker. The Hole has held up very well as the years have gone on.

Decent Acting 

Acting is very good throughout. Thora Birch spent time in an English boarding school to nail down the accent which is commendable. She stands out for all the right reasons as the somewhat socially awkward, girl with a crush, Liz. Keira Knightley is decent in one of her earlier roles. Everyone does a great job of expressing their character’s weakening state of mind and reflecting the panic they feel stuck down in the bunker.

Screenshot from horror movie The Hole (2001)

The twist ending might not be for everyone but I think it wraps things up quite neatly. The non-linear time line works well but may lead to a little confusion. There is little in the way of scares but the movie more than makes up for it with plenty of tension. Nick Hamm’s direction keeps things tight and he makes tremendous use of the limited space available. Despite this, the camera work deserves some significant criticism with some of the shots being genuinely baffling. All in all, this is a good, underrated, horror movie.

Should You Watch The Hole?

The Hole is definitely worth a watch. Due to its restricted location and minimal tech, it has aged pretty well. The story holds up and the tension is still there in spades. Sure, a few of the plot points don’t make a ton of sense, the camera work is a bit shoddy and there are a few issues here and there. But, overall, it is an effective, tense, movie. Not perfect but completely enjoyable for fans of taught horrors focused on toxic friendships.

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