The Hole In The Ground (Vertigo Releasing / Universal)

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Escaping to fresh life in an Irish countryside village after a difficult break up, Sarah O’Neill and her son Christopher’s domestic sanctuary starts to unravel after a strange encounter with a whispering madwoman on a country road, a suspicious story at a dinner party, and a midnight visit to the massive and bottomless quarry precious feet from their new home.

The Hole In The Ground comes to us from director Lee Cronin, and wastes absolutely no running time in creeping you the hell out. From the ominous nails-on-chalkboard violin soundtrack reminiscent of films like Insidious and more recently Hereditary, to the decidedly deep and dark folk-horror earth tone colour palette we’re treated to, the movie is a juicy and impressive how-to for creating maximum tension with minimum monster.

Seana Kerslake is fantastic as Sarah, a mother struggling with not only her own trauma, but the haunting belief that her own child has been replaced by a primal and cruel spiritual interloper, hell bent on taunting and torturing her. Once she admits out loud to a visiting doctor that she doesn’t think Chris is her son, things start to move quickly. She’s put on medication for her own perceived neurosis, questioned and held at arm’s length by those closest to her, so attempts to solve the mystery alone, out of the fear of not only being separated from her child, but more likely being attacked by him. When the mad woman is found on the side of the road with her head buried in the ground, and her husband tells the story of her life, Sarah, realising the emerging similarities, attempts to take matters into her own hands.

James Quinn Markey, the young man playing Chris, is as successfully creepy as only a child can be – from his haunting laugh, to the low animal growls that rumble out of him as the creature inside begins to take over. You find your shoulders up by your ears every time he enters the scene, a physical cringe with his every ominous call out of “Mummy?” from down the corridor.

If you’re looking for blood, guts, and screams in the traditional sense, then this might not be the film for you, but what The Hole In The Ground delivers, with chillingly paced slow burn is far more subtly terrifying – the question of whether you really know those close to you, or you don’t. Sophie Francois

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