I’ve suddenly noticed my Prime watchlist is filling up with darker selections, so I took a break from the good time horror for a change to go a little deeper—as much as I could take without letting it get me down in the dead of winter, although I have to wonder if SAD is currently dictating what I do put in my watchlist to begin with. Either way, let’s get into these three!
THE HOLE IN THE GROUND (2019)
The Hole in the Ground has a great atmospheric look and feel, and the initial ominous tone is promising, but very few moments pay off, which is extremely frustrating.
A mother and her young son live in a house in the country. Right from the start she begins looking at everything around her as mysterious, as if something is not quite right, but she can’t put her finger on it. This happens over and over: mom looks afraid, tension builds, nothing happens, cut to new scene. Argh!
While out in the woods with her son, mom finds this huge hole in the ground.
Then the son begins acting creepy and weird. The mom becomes convinced he’s no longer her son. There are definitely a few incredibly effective and frightening scenes with the boy, but the film eventually has to resort to dream sequence scares to keep us invested.
For the disjointed final act, scene cuts are used to basically teleport the story around, somehow landing us down in underground caves. It feels like we’ve suddenly been plunged into The Descent, however this is the movie’s big zinger moment, which is much more inspired by a body-napping classic that has been remade, reimagined, and rebooted numerous times.
The Hole in the Ground easily could have been branded under that franchise even though the parallels are thrust upon us like the surprise twist at the end of a Twilight Zone episode rather than unfolding throughout the course of the film.
THE TREK (2008)
I’m surprised this movie has been so overlooked for more than a decade, but I can imagine it missed its opportunity for infamy due to the first 35 grueling minutes of its short 75-minute run time. I kind of understood the purpose of that first act, but it is asking a lot of a horror audience to stick with it to get to the heinous backwoods horror film crammed into the second half.
The film has a gritty 1970s horror movie feel (The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw Massacre), beginning with introductory text and voiceover about a young couple that has gone missing mysteriously while on a hike in the woods.
There are various interview clips with family and friends interspersed with scenes of the couple just walking through the woods—while unbearable folk music plays—talking about life, love, and their future together. These first 35 minutes establishing the two characters also paint a portrait of humanity and the simple things that matter in civilized society.
And then the horror hits—hard. It knocks the Wrong Turn concept on its ass in a very short and relentless amount of time.
I can’t say much of anything without spoiling everything, and even though it’s a message we’ve seen before in horror, it’s brutally sadistic and nasty here, so the horror delivers the goods to gore hounds just as much as it does to those who insist that every horror movie has to communicate a political agenda.
Be prepared for a pretty extreme moment in the final few minutes of the film. And by that I mean that it comes after the moment that you’ll think I’m talking about. There’s also a tag scene halfway through the closing credits, which I personally felt wasn’t necessary.
THE WARP (2013)
Running only 70 minutes long, The Warp is a trippy film with some layered themes if you take the time to think about it. While it has a low budget look and feel, the tone really reminded me of the acclaimed horror fave Session 9, only with more blood and gore. No, I’m not saying it’s as good as Session 9, I’m just saying it gave me that vibe, so if that’s your type of movie, you might want to check this one out.
A young woman assembles a team to do a ghost-hunting job at a factory. The location is quite creepy and the camera work builds a sense of dread as the team sets up shop, all of them exploring the desolate rooms and halls on their own. However…there are some areas of the building that are restricted.
But when has a little yellow tape stopped anyone from doing something stupid in a horror movie?
One guy on the team seems off right from the start, so the factory begins affecting him the most. He has episodes in which he’s being told by a group of mysterious men to do awful things. But are they real, is he suffering delusions, are there really ghosts, or is it a bit of all three?
You’ll just have to watch and decide for yourself, although I do think there’s some specific exposition at the beginning of the film that spells things out too much instead of allowing our minds to mess with us.