The Reel Review
A mother and young son’s new life in a remote, wooded stretch of Ireland is upended after the boy disappears one night near a mysterious sinkhole close to their home. When he returns, his mother starts noticing increasingly strange behavior, prompting her to wonder if he’s been replaced by something sinister, in this 2019 Irish horror/mystery.
For the first hour of the film, co-writer/director Lee Cronin, in his feature film debut, plays with the possibility that the mother’s fears could be unfounded – that they may be just a hallucinatory combination of mood-altering sedatives and emotional trauma from her recently failed, physically abusive marriage. But then Cronin introduces the more supernatural element to the story, which, despite committed performances from the film’s two leads Seána Kerslake and James Quinn Markey, frankly, is a bit hokier than the more original first hour, as he instead opts to copy elements from a slew of other horror films.
While the subject matter involving European changeling folklore is hardly new (in 2021, we got both the very similar Irish horror/thriller You Are Not My Mother as well as the Icelandic sci-fi/mystery series Katla), for the most part The Hole in the Ground is still a solid, straightforward horror/mystery in its own right. A chilling, creepy score and plenty of spooky visuals help amp up the paranoia and dread. And the film’s ambiguous ending plays into parental fears about kids changing into something unrecognizable as they get older.
• Irish folklore is filled with tales of changelings, mythical fairies that are said to replace children, and Fairy Forts, the ruins of neolithic tombs scattered throughout Ireland that are believed by some people to be portals to the otherworld.
• Capgras Syndrome is an actual condition in which an individual believes that a family member has been replaced by an imposter. It is very rare, more commonly found in individuals with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, Lewy body dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It is treatable with medication.
• The Hole in the Ground was filmed on location in the Irish cities of Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin.