John and the Hole is director Pascual Sisto's full-length feature debut and is an unsettling realistic look at what a socially awkward boy might do with an uneven frame of mind. It is an indie horror film grounded in realism, edited in a way that allows you to feel tension, and will hold your attention from scene to scene with its fleshed out protagonist.
Brad (Michael C. Hall) and Anna (Jennifer Ehle) have two kids: John (Charlie Shotwell) and Laurie (Taissa Farmiga). John discovers a hole that is nearby the family's home that was created as a part of an unfinished construction project and decides to put his family members inside this hole where they will be at the mercy of John providing them food and water.
The film is an unnerving viewing because you primarily wonder why John captures his family. Although the answer may feel underwhelming, the journey to get to that answer is a tension-filled ride because John feels like a real (potentially autistic) teenager and you can't feel sorry for the poor choices he makes. I wanted to understand him more and he was an intriguing character. Shotwell brings John to life with his unfazed nonverbal expressions and the tone in which he speaks to those he encounters truly makes him feel like a sociopath.
The editing is wonderful and effectively takes its time with letting you experience the tension. The camera takes its time with one scene staying on screen for a little longer than you'd expect to let you appreciate the scenery or character's response / action. The 4:3 (square) aspect ratio feels like an older home video (since most modern films are in 16:9 format) but looks contemporarily beautiful due to the vibrant color correction that the film applied. Music is used minimally and ops for silence or sounds of the world, which added to the realism that the film achieves.
The ending and closure to the film aren't as satisfying as I would have liked to see. The film feels like there's a larger mystery at hand but in the end John simply has some childlike traumatic issues that cause him to think this sinister plan he enacts is a good one. Once the screenplay resolves it feels like some extremely unfortunate events occurred but nothing that amounts to anything significant.
Despite the film having a slow pace and it not being a standard run-of-the-mill horror film with jump scares, there's a lot that works that will hold audiences's attention from the beginning. The characters feel real. John feels like a boy I couldn't help but have empathy for and also be upset and explain, "What the heck! Why are you doing that?!" John's family is shown worrying about things any family held captive would have to be worried about; from having to find food and figuring out the best way to use the restroom, it is disturbing to see them struggle in a real-life nightmare.
|John and the Hole is grounded in realism, edited in a way that allows you to feel tension, and will hold your attention from scene to scene with its fleshed out protagonist.