The Hole review

Don’t you open that trap door...

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The Hole review - There’s a hole in the cellar of your new house.

You don’t know what’s at the bottom but you think it might just be something alive. Or possibly dead. Or maybe even undead. Brilliant! Best summer holiday ever…

Joe Gremlins Dante’s best feature since 1998’s Small Soldiers (and his first since ’03’s Looney Tunes: Back In Action) is a teen exploit scary enough to thrill adult genre fans, but still safe enough for hardy young ’uns – a perfect My First Horror to inspire a new generation of sick puppies.

Channelling Stephen King (and resembling adaps, Cat’s Eye and It) The Hole captures the joy and adventure of being young, curious and fearless – the lessons learned and the friendships formed in a long, hot American summer when you’re being terrorised by a creepy dead girl and an evil killer clown.

When Chris Massoglia (Cirque Du Freak, likeable) moves from New York City to a small town, he’s rightfully fed up. But then he meets hot neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett, hot) and with his brother (Nathan Gamble, cute) discovers a seemingly bottomless pit that won’t stay shut – and occasionally spews out monsters and demons. Obviously, the three decide they had better investigate...

Despite the 12A rating, The Hole is a horror that’s done its homework, paying dues to a host of classics (Ringu, Child’s Play, Poltergeist, Gremlins, Puppet Master, The Gate…).

It’s also a reminder that tales of terror can be bloody good fun too, an escapist antidote to found-footage realism and torture porn, featuring protagonists you actually like hanging out with. For old-school genre buffs and youngsters who enjoy being spooked, this could be one of the warmest, most entertaining films of the year.

True, there are niggles. Dante makes a handful of patronising concessions to smaller viewers, at times flirting with a Disney-esque schmaltz that’s beneath him. The ending is both limp and heavy-handed compared to the darkness that creeps into the first few acts. And the 3D? Competent enough, but still an unnecessary gimmick you could easily live without.

Minor flaws that won’t ruin your enjoyment, but they don’t help a film that should be aiming for Lost Boys-like status for this generation’s 14-year-olds.

So if you see one feel-good ode to childhood pleasures that isn’t afraid of exploring the shadows, make it Toy Story 3. If Toy Story 3 is sold out, head straight to the queue for The Hole.

Rosie is the former editor of Total Film, before she moved to be the Special Edition Editor for the magazine group at Future. After that she became the Movies Editor at Digital Spy, and now she's the UK Editor of Den of Geek. She's an experienced movie and TV journalist, with a particular passion for horror.