After the rom-com flavoured fluffiness of Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel And Laurence (surely a contender for the worst film title ever), Brit director Nick Hamm has bravely plunged into darker territory with this intriguingly premised homegrown psycho-thriller. But he flounders in the inky blackness, feeling his way around blindly until completely lost. Flick on the light switch and it immediately becomes clear that all Hamm's come up with here is a sub-Shyamalan Tale Of The Unexpected which could only ever appeal to the most cine-illiterate of adolescents.
Shame, because the cast give it their best. Newcomers Laurence Fox (son of Edward), Keira Knightley and Desmond Harrington are sufficiently convincing as the spoiled-brat teens suddenly thrown into this horrifically claustrophobic situation, while Thora Birch, despite an accent that occasionally wavers between Californian and plummy English, stands out as the unhinged, dowdy teen suffering the most intense of crushes (for Harrington's acne-free cool kid).
What's less convincing is the plotting. First-time scripters Ben Cort and Caroline Ip are too busy playing with the audience's perceptions to realise they've failed to present anything which resembles a realistic situation. Consequently, suspension of disbelief becomes impossible and all their ambitious narrative tricks are rendered useless. How, for example, are we to believe that the four teens could go unfound for so long? Why is the location of this huge bunker such a secret? And why is the police investigation so damn amateurish?
Perhaps the extensive plot-gashes would be forgivable if Hamm and his crew had at least tried to bandage them up with some bone-chilling atmos-weaving. But cheery, sunlight-dappled country lanes, chintzy interiors and a "Hole" which looks no more fearsome than your average nightclub - during daytime - hardly make for gut-tensing viewing. The best thrillers (Se7en, The Silence Of The Lambs) ooze dread from every frame, but even the supposedly scariest bits in The Hole will fail to send even the faintest shiver down the frailest of spines.