Who doesn’t get excited when a new horror film from a studio like A24 or IFC comes out? Well, if you look at the average Audience Score from one of them on Rotten Tomatoes, they might not actually be that excited. But besides that, unfortunately, I was quite excited to see John and the Hole coming to theaters and VOD.
But what is this new psychological thriller about? If you take Home Alone and instead Kevin captured his family so he could be home alone, that is John and the Hole. Pretty messed up, right? The titular John is an awkward and distant child who only connects with his friend through online gaming (today’s typical antisocial child). His family just doesn’t get him. But when a chance spider bite shows it can knock out their landscapers, John hatches his nefarious plan to imprison his family in an abandoned and unfinished bunker.
What a concept! But does the narrative intrigue match the idea? Not quite. Nicolas Giacobone’s script has great ideas, but the actual story is lacking. Besides the actual capture, not much happens throughout the film. John occasionally does reckless games with his friend (leading to multiple dead kid fake outs) and tries to lie about his family’s whereabouts. The characters don’t have a lot of depth either but there are a few moments between the father, mother, and daughter that gives the film some solid character moments. Then there is the ending…which just comes and goes without much happening. There is no real resolution to the tension in the story. There is also a subplot with a mother and daughter that feels tacked on.
But what about from the technical side of things? Does director Pasqual Sisto deliver? That he does. There is an eerie and unnerving atmosphere about this film which is effective. It does turn out to be a consistently suspenseful film (even if the finale does nothing with it). Sisto works the audience throughout the film with fake scares and false tragedies. The score and cinematography work together with the direction to create a tense ride. But do the actors match these efforts? Our lead Charlie Shotwell has his moments, but he is also a bit flat at times. Is it intentional? Maybe but it does make him a lot less engaging and interesting. Jennifer Ehle and Taissa Farmiga have their moments even if Michael C Hall is just effective in what he does.
So, is John and the Hole worth your time? That really depends on what your level of satisfaction is. Can you appreciate the skill that went into creating this tense experience? Then you might want to give this one a watch. Do you need strong narrative resolution and a story you feel emotionally attached to? John and the Hole will not do the trick for you.