2001: Looking Back At THE HOLE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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2001: Looking Back At THE HOLE

Hannah Buttery revisits The Hole.
The late nineties/early noughties were the height of what I like to call ‘Teen Angst’ horror. With the iconic The Blair Witch Project in 1999 followed by Ginger Snaps and Final Destination in 2000, production companies saw great profit in putting teenagers in peril. I mean, what’s not to love? Teens enjoyed projecting their obnoxious classmates onto the screaming victims, and parents enjoyed pointing out how tripping over the laundry basket and impaling yourself on a kitchen knife is what happens when you don’t tidy your room.

Then 2001 dawned, and with it came rapturous applause (at least in Britain) for the latecomer to the ‘Teen Angst’ horror genre, The Hole. However, whilst we were busy applauding Nick Hamm’s latest triumph on our tiny little island; the rest of the world remained quiet. The Hole didn’t see an international release until 2003, and it did so with a whimper, not a scream.

If that whimper never made it to your ears and you’re wondering whether you should watch The Hole before reading this, you should. Go and do it! Now preferably, leave this page open and come back when you’ve finished it as there are spoilers ahead.
The Hole sees a bloodied, dishevelled Liz Dunn (portrayed by Thora Birch) stumble and trip her way back to the private school she attends. With the help of her friendly neighbourhood psychologist, we come to learn that after being trapped underground with three other students for 18 days, Liz has emerged as the sole survivor.

The brilliance of this film lies in the way the story is revealed to us. Beginning in the middle immediately disconnects the viewer, leaving them disorientated. Continuing the story progression with both past and future combined begins to send us into a fugue-like state where we latch on to every scrap of information we are fed as the true version of events.

Liz portrays herself as the school loser who has a crush on the most popular boy in school, Mike. Wanting to help her loser friend, Frankie (the most popular girl in the school, obviously) convinces Mike and her boyfriend Geoff to ditch a trip to Wales in favour of the comforts of an abandoned nuclear shelter. If you’re wondering why they agreed, then you’ve obviously never been on a school trip.

Martyn, the man with the plan (and the key to the bunker) agrees to come back at the end of the weekend to free the foursome in time for them to file into line and be collected by their parents. But, surprise! Once the three days are up, the group finds themselves still locked up, and with dwindling supplies.
Liz convinces the group (and the therapist) that Martyn hasn’t returned as he is desperately in love with Liz and jealous of her attraction to Mike and he has hidden cameras and microphones in the bunker which he is monitoring them through. Dehydrated and starving the group musters up all remaining brain cells (which were few to begin with) to hatch a plan to escape their concrete prison. It takes all but Liz dying before Martyn returns.

We want desperately to believe this version of events due to Liz’s portrayal of herself as the underdog; the shy, attractive loser who just wants the captain of the football team to notice her is one of the biggest clichés in cinema. The bonus of the jealous geek leaving his group of peers to starve to death is an unpleasant but welcome switch-up.

However, Martyn is soon picked up by the police and surprise again! Turns out Liz’ pants ought to be on fire with all the lies she’s been telling. She's not only the most popular girl in school (other than Frankie, duh) but is a stark raving bitch with it. She had the key all along and is framing Martyn for….some reason?
It's at this point that we begin scrambling to try and find the signs we missed leading up to this, but due to how the story has been relayed to us all we end up with is a vague itchy feeling under our skin and a headache. It’s a nice change of pace from the usual slip-up in dialogue revealing the final twist in the film before it’s really got started, and whilst the egotistical among us will be angrily stomping their feet because they never saw it coming, the rest of us are sat with our minds well and truly blown.

The refreshing thing about The Hole is that it doesn’t rely on its twist to gain a round of applause for how awfully clever it is. Instead, it revels in the storytelling: the paced reveal. It tears down the walls of everything it has taught us up to this point and then builds a mansion in the ruins.

The final act of the film reads as a ‘I killed them all and I’d do it again’ memoir of Liz. The truth is, unbelievably, grislier than the lie. Drugs and alcohol-fuelled threesomes and Liz’ own insecurities realized she seals her companions’ fate until such a time that Mike can see that Liz is truly the woman for him. Sidenote: the most unrealistic part of this film is that Mike would choose to sleep with Kiera Knightley over Thora Birch.

Unfortunately, it takes Frankie literally throwing her guts up and Geoff being beaten to death over a coke can for Mike to realise how good Liz looks. Whilst the viewer sees this for what it is, the last woman on the planet appeal, Liz takes it with a running leap and reveals she has the key, and they can live happily ever after now (sans friends). Mike proceeds to angrily plummet to his death chasing Liz up a ladder leaving Liz to stumble out of the bunker to where we find her at the beginning of the film.

The beauty of this ending is that we cannot unlearn what we thought we knew about Liz, so we continue to find excuses for her behaviour. It’s not until she smirks at the psychologist as she is being bundled into an ambulance that we see Liz for what she truly is: a stone, cold fox … bitch. The story is crafted in such a way that even as the credits roll, questions swirl in the viewer’s head. Why kill Martyn? Who goes to that much trouble over a boy? How much does somebody have to vomit to viscerally redecorate a bathroom? Why was Geoff hoarding a can of coke?

Admittedly, not all these questions are relevant, but the fact remains it is difficult to grasp how the wool was so effectively pulled over our eyes. In truth, we wanted it to be. The thing we struggle most with after watching The Hole is the knowledge that somebody could be so angry at a group of people that they are willing to watch them die.

The Hole is, at its best, a brilliant cinematic exploration of the idea of an unreliable narrator. At its worst, well, it’s a film that has the unfortunate displeasure of placing Laurence Fox in a somewhat leading role.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

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