What if your child was an imposter? That’s the dread-inducing theme of this Irish horror film that explores the emotional weight of parenting and how bringing up a child can feel utterly bewildering. Single parent Sarah (Seána Kerslake) is raising her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) alone in the countryside when he goes missing in the woods one evening. A desperate Sarah doesn’t recognise the twitchy boy who returns and soon becomes convinced that her son has been replaced.
Although many of its scares feel recycled (one sequence owes an all-too-obvious debt to ‘The Blair Witch Project’), this doesn’t get in the way too much. Director Lee Cronin brings enough visual flair to lock you right into its world, creating a shivery atmosphere aided by a piercing score that brings a chill to the mood.
The two central performances also land. Kerslake is convincing as the put-upon mum, while Quinn Markey is brilliantly creepy as Chris – the child actor’s eyes hinting at unseen horrors, his performance pushing the same emotionally tortured buttons as Danny Torrance did in ‘The Shining’ or Cole Sear in ‘The Sixth Sense’.
Look beyond the conventional jump scares and ‘The Hole in the Ground’ is really about the terrifying uncertainties of parenthood, drawing tension from relatable, everyday anxieties. Like ‘The Babadook’, it’s a horror film built around the idea that raising a child can sometimes be – quite literally – a nightmare.