Gremlins remains one of my favourite films from childhood, and it is thanks to Joe Dante who helmed the films with enough to keep it frightening, yet kid friendly and family oriented at the same time. It's been a long while since I've missed Small Soldiers on the big screen, that he now returns with The Hole, yet dabbling with a similar treatment of making it quite the entertaining romp for both young and old to sit through.
A pity about the 3D version though, as I opted to watch this in 2D, and clearly because of the 3D gimmick, there were a few needless scenes stuck in, like having a kid throw a baseball toward the screen while lying on his back on his bed. On the whole there weren't too many deliberate 3D shots designed for the film, though I thought that the special effects put into it were spiffy enough, especially since there was a good mix of traditional stop motion efforts deliberate done in a cheesy manner, and those of the modern money shots toward the end.
As it's family oriented, this film like the rest of what Dante did thus far, has family being in the centre of all things that trip up in the dark, and we get three stories put into one, by virtue of each character having to deal with their fears come alive. Written by Mark L. Smith (who scripted Vacancy), the narrative keeps you guessing exactly what the reason is behind the threats are as faced by each child/teenage lead in the Thompson brothers Dane (Chris Massoglia) and Lucas (Nathan Gamble), and their neighbour Julie (Haley Bennett) when they look down the cursed hole, found in the new home of the Thompsons.
The idea is pretty cool in itself, because what could spook you more than what's truly your greatest fear? However that itself served up a mixed bag of scares, because the scares here are customized to the character's. For instance, Lucas has to deal with something straight out of Child's Play, although this little thingamajig had a small scene as a stinger after the end credits (well, if you have to know, it's only a wink, so you didn't miss much if you failed to stay behind). For Julie, it has to deal with a guilt from the past that manifest itself as something spiritual, and to face one's guilt is something that takes up her story arc.
For Dane's however, it was kept under wraps until the last, which provided for a fitting finale with all the bells and whistles thrown in, dealing with how the magnitude of one's problems when young seem to shrink in size as we grow older, possibly because we may either have outgrown it, or that being older we have a lot more other concerns to deal, in his case, the growing into a surrogate paternal role over the care of his younger brother, in a single parent family.
Still, despite being a horror/thriller, this is still something that will find a broad appeal, being somewhat simple in its stories, but nothing less than effective and of course for those catching it in 3D, yet another film to provide you that fixation with putting on the glasses. I'm not quite sure if a sequel would be made given the way it ended with a plot thread so glaringly hanging out, but we know how Gremlins 2 went.