Irish horror films are steeped in eerie atmosphere to be sure, and director Lee Cronin’s impressive feature debut layers it on thick.

Shot in overcast shades with an ominous score and sound design to match, The Hole in the Ground immediately sets the mood with a Shining-like drone shot of a car slowly snaking its way through dense woodland, and a disorienting camera inversion.

Sarah (Seána Kerslake) has recently relocated to rural Ireland with her young son Chris (James Quinn Markey), after separating from the boy’s father for reasons unknown. Although a year-old scar on her forehead hints that domestic abuse might be the cause.

After discovering an enormous sinkhole flanked by the forest, Sarah is further rattled by a creepy confrontation with a local crazy woman who insists that Chris is something other than her son.

The boy soon validates her claim by snacking on a live spider, violently convulsing and exhibiting superhuman strength. But is this bizarre behaviour a case of possession or the hallucinations of a mother in the throes of a mental breakdown?

The Hole in the Ground is a metaphorical horror that recalls The Babadook, but it’s also a supremely creepy within-the-woods scarefest that will invite comparisons with Corin Hardy’s Irish folk horror The Hallow.

While a climactic decent into the titular crater veers the film into more conventional genre territory, this is primarily an unsettling exercise in maternal paranoia that evokes an overwhelming sense of being swallowed by darkness.

star-4In cinemas: April 12, 2019 (Limited release)
Starring: Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, James Cosmo
Directed by: Lee Cronin

Monster Fest presents in association with Rialto Distribution ONE NIGHT ONLY screenings of The Hole in the Ground in selected cinemas on Friday, April 12.