THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019) Reviews and overview

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‘Fear will drag you down’

The Hole in the Ground is a 2019 Irish-British-Finnish supernatural horror feature film written and directed by Lee Cronin (shorts: Ghost Train; Through the Night) from a screenplay written with Stephen Shields (Zombie Bashers series). The movie stars Seána Kerslake, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen and James Quinn Markey.


Trying to escape her broken past, Sarah O’Neill (Seána Kerslake) is building a new life on the fringes of a backwood rural town with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey).

A terrifying encounter with a mysterious neighbour shatters her fragile security, throwing Sarah into a spiralling nightmare of paranoia and mistrust, as she tries to uncover if the disturbing changes in her little boy are connected to an ominous sinkhole buried deep in the forest that borders their home…


” …The Hole in the Ground operates within mostly recognizable genre tropes, to only sporadically effective results. The flickering basement lightbulb, for instance, has long since lost its ability to engender fear. On the other hand, the use of negative space in a frame that forces us to anticipate what might suddenly be seen there is a horror mainstay for damned good reasons.” Battleship Pretension

“Everything is just so compact and economical. Cronin utilizes flawless pacing, ensuring you never get bored as the film builds toward its rousing climax. The film rests on the shoulders of Seána Kerslake’s performance as Sarah, mother of the troubled Chris. She is a unique and exciting horror character.” Birth. Movies. Death.

” …just as the film starts picking up the pace and introduce new ideas that will keep you on the edge of your seat, it rushes through the plot in what feels like 10 minutes. After waiting for the real fun to start, it is disappointing that the film doesn’t savor in what makes it special.” Bloody Disgusting

” …despite the befuddling denouement, The Hole in the Ground is, for the most part, too conventional to live up to the hype.” Kalleem Aftab, Cineuropa

” …it’s a bit unfortunate that all of this builds us into the tale of a boy who is no longer himself. It’s been done ad nauseum and it continues to be done (The Prodigy, anyone?), but it would be unfair to say that The Hole in the Ground doesn’t do it well enough to at least be enjoyable. An overall exceptional feature-length debut for Cronin…” Cryptic Rock

“For the most part, Cronin avoids jump scares – although a couple of vivid nightmare sequences do go for the quick shock – and crafts an atmosphere of pure dread, combined with astonishing and immersive sound design. He even throws in a bit of The Descent-esque claustrophobic horror in case you were getting too comfortable.” Digital Spy

Reminding us of the next Hailey Joel Osment, Markey carefully measures facial ticks and movement to suddenly become another person altogether. It is pretty wonderful work. We were also impressed with Lee Cronin’s wonderful visual sense.” Film Threat

” …there’s a sense that each individual idea is stronger than the movie surrounding it. When the movie comes to an end and its secrets have been revealed, it doesn’t amount to all that much. But that’s not to say that Cronin doesn’t show some flair here, as he seems at home lensing slow-burn chills….” Flickering Myth

” …sustains a pleasant aura of menace even when it’s not being outright frightening. Though perhaps seeming a bit slight, that’s not necessarily a negative; The Hole in the Ground plays more like a chilling short story more than a full-fledged novel. Its aims aren’t at all grand, but it’s still a frightening tale.” Goomba Stomp

” …Henry James-ian, Turn of the Screw-style psychological ambiguity is abandoned by the last half hour, which then devolves into a straight-up creature feature that’s much less engaging. Nevertheless, props are due to Kerslake for her intense, wounded performance and fine direction that gets the best out of wee Markey, a kid who has a haunted look pretty much from the off.” The Hollywood Reporter

“Though a little over-extended, Cronin’s film offers a genuinely creepy slant on a familiar theme. Overt jump scares are mostly avoided in favour of drip-feed dread, while old favourites like creaking doors and noises in the night are balanced by tiny moments of intimate horror involving something as deceptively banal as hair combing.” Horrorscreams Videovault

“A gripping, tense “slow burn” that kicks off quickly and steadily ramps up into a nail-biting climax and uneasy resolution. Layered over themes of parenthood, loss, trust, and abuse, The Hole In The Ground is one we’ll be talking about for years to come.” Modern Horrors

“Viewers primarily seeking a unique premise may find The Hole in the Ground disappointingly derivative, but for horror fans weary of movies that favour heavy plotting over the sort of brooding atmosphere and chills on offer here, Cronin’s debut suggests he’s a filmmaker who understands what truly makes this genre tick.” The Movie Waffler

Hole in the Ground digs a little deeper in its third act, switching from cheap gotcha scares to a psychological trauma that immerses the viewer into Sarah’s psychological terror while expanding on her post-divorce scars. Stephen McKeon for provides an excellent score too, filled with squealing strings, to build up some kind of atmosphere.” The Playlist

“Though Cronin and Stephen Shields’ script displays some compelling symmetry in its articulation of the terrifying concept of people we know the best looking unfamiliar, and has a clear visual motif (the presence of mirrors and distortions, kicking off with Chris looking at himself in a fun house mirror), it becomes frustrating to wait for this horror movie to be more than just loud.”

“While the atmosphere and specific visual tricks Cronin employs aren’t especially groundbreaking for this kind of tale, he deploys them at a steady, evenhanded pace that draws you into Sarah’s plight. Tom Comerford’s moody cinematography does a lot to keep you on edge, though Stephen McKeon’s heavy, portentous music tries a little too hard…” Rue Morgue

“Cronin perhaps enjoys his horror clichés a tad too much – the cowled figure standing in the middle of the road, the bumps in the night. But he also has some original, visceral shocks up his sleeve, and the coolness not to dwell on them but move swiftly on.” Screen Daily

“The explanation is never as rewarding as the mystery, and while this by no means ruins the film, it hampers it. And yet, so much of The Hole in the Ground does what it sets out to do – make you squirm and shudder – that you’ll probably be willing to forgive the slightly underwhelming wrap-up.” Slash Film

” …a suspense mining masterclass with a proclivity to slink under the skin, boost goose bumps, erect neck hairs and rattle the soul. Cronin’s film has the strength to strike fear in the heart of hardened horror fans. Coupled with incredible performances, this makes his debut feature by far the best horror film of the year so far and one of the greatest Irish horror films ever.” Starburst

“Where Hereditary had an absurd sense of humor and an austere style, The Hole in the Ground takes a more head-down, meat-and-potatoes approach to the genre. It might not linger in the imagination as long, but it delivers effective scares throughout and — most importantly — never lets up.” Dan Jackson, Thrillist

“This kind of loopy premise devolves very easily into all-out silliness without the right actor to conjure up some semblance of emotional reality as the tumbledown terror piles up, and Cronin has that in the wonderfully expressive, open-featured Kerslake […] Cronin, for his part, conducts the chaos with wired aplomb, as he and cinematographer Tom Comerford crank up the autumn-chill atmosphere in ever-darkening woodsy tones.” Variety

“There’s also plenty of intimate closeups of Sarah scraping old wallpaper off the walls. This is A24 after all. The minimalism escalates quickly though as Chris starts being creepy and getting angry with his new super powers, while Sarah imagines some violent bone snaps and spiders if that gets you. The metaphor is that children can be both angels and monsters. ” We Live Entertainment

The Hole in the Ground was released in the UK on Blu-ray and DVD by Vertigo Releasing/Universal Pictures on 8th July 2019. A thirteen-minute featurette, Inside the Hole in the Ground, takes a look behind-the-scenes.

Cast and characters:

  • Seána Kerslake … Sarah O’Neill
  • James Quinn Markey … Chris O’Neill
  • Simone Kirby … Louise Caul
  • Steve Wall … Rob Caul
  • Eoin Macken … Jay Caul
  • Sarah Hanly … Lil Jones
  • James Cosmo … Des Brady
  • Kati Outinen … Noreen Brady
  • Bennett Andrew … Doctor
  • David Crowley … Teacher
  • John Quinn … Detective
  • Chloe Grogan … Schoolgirl
  • Jake Grogan … Schoolboy
  • Miro Lopperi … ‘it’
  • David McMahon … Parent [uncredited]

Technical credits:

91 minutes


Following its premiere at the Sundance festival and the DirectTV release, Lionsgate is releasing The Hole in the Ground in the USA on DVD on April 30, 2019.


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