John and the Hole presents an awfully dark story that tells of how John (Charlie Shotwell) traps his family in a hole in the ground. It’s a creepy tale and one that will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end.
Remember in Home Alone when Kevin says, “wow, I made my family disappear”, and it sounded cool? Well in John and the Hole we witness the less cool and very chilling version of a child actually making their family disappear. It’s really uncomfortable to watch. What’s more sinister than seeing a child doing something so evil? The real crux here however, is that John’s intentions for committing the act are unclear. This is not your stereotypical evil child, or the common abused or neglected child, on film. John appears to behave in a non-evil way, he simply comes across as being a little more peculiar than the other kids at school, and he potentially falls somewhere on the autism spectrum, but at his core, he’s a good child. His family are also very wealthy, although they live in a respectable modest property; it has lavish grounds and a swimming pool, but isn’t a huge mansion.
Wrapped up within all the darkness and psychological thriller aspects of the piece, we also have a warped coming-of-age film, which once again parallels Home Alone as John, like Kevin, learns to miss his family. The circumstances between the characters may be vastly different, but the sentiment remains. The story plays out firmly alongside John, his familial inhabitants of the hole getting the occasional scene, but the story here is more focussed on how John himself reacts to the decision that he has made. It’s all fun and games initially as he stays up late, drives the family car, and eats a load of junk food, but when the shine of that way of living wears off, John is left with the puzzle of trying to work out if and how life could ever return to normality.
Writer Nicolás Giacobone is one of the team that worked on Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which of course means that John and the Hole isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. There’s another component to the film (even bleaker than the main story) that steers the viewer to interpreting the events in several different ways, leaving them to decide how much and what is real. This bonus part allows John and the Hole to take on an almost fairy-tale-like aura, removing itself from our own societal norms and granting permission for things to get super dark and intense. Adding to the creation of these feelings is a nice quiet, slow, and considered pace through the story. Director Pascual Sisto is happy to let the film breathe, and whilst for some films this can deflate any tensions built, here it works at holding the piece together.
Fairy-tales are often told to children to teach them lessons about the world, but here with John and the Hole the tables are turned and it is the parents who have something to learn. A twisted nightmare that raises some unsettling scenarios, John and the Hole is darkly intense and seductively dangerous.
John and the Hole is available on Digital HD.
This review first appeared on THN.