The Hole is one of those films that abuses the unreliable narrator method of telling a story. Our main character, Liz (Thora Birch) is first seen walking on the streets in tattered clothes, before finding her way to a payphone and screaming at the top of her lungs. She’s forced to see a shrink (Embeth Davidtz), who assures her that Liz will get through this.
What is “this,” you ask? Well, she’s come from a place that the kids dub “The Hole,” an underground shelter that not many people know about, nor would anyone expect people to be inside. Because teenagers make poor decisions, they decide that it would be a fun idea to skip a school field trip and spend three days inside The Hole. What should be a simple getaway turns disastrous, when — well, that depends on who you ask.
We get several versions of the events that took place inside The Hole, with much of what’s said not being the truth, or at least, the whole truth. Certain parts may have happened in the earlier stories, but we’re lead to believe that the majority of the tales are lies. Even the reasoning for going down in the first place gets changed up, although I’m unsure of the purpose behind that. Everyone knows that the way the first story ends cannot be true, because in that one, everyone escapes after four days. We later learn — and I assume that the investigators would know this from the start — that Liz only emerged after eighteen days, meaning her first story cannot be correct.
She blames her friend, Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank), and claims that he locked her and her friends/classmates inside. Why would he do that? Well, he’s in love with her, you see, and since she wanted to get close to the American hunk, Mike (Desmond Harrington), he decided that nobody gets out until they hate one another. Or at least, that’s what everyone figures, so they stage a fight and are let out, causing the police to bring Martyn (a play on the word “martyr,” perhaps?) in for questioning.
But Martyn was on holiday with his family. He couldn’t have unlocked the door. The police overlook this fact, and decide that he had to be behind it. He tells a completely different story of how the group managed to get into The Hole in the first place, with him having nothing to do with it. Liz isn’t even a loner in that story, she’s popular and is best friends with Frankie (Keira Knightley), the tall blonde who convinces Mike and his friend Geoff (Laurence Fox) to party for a few days.
We get to see enactments of both of these stories, even if neither actually occurred. When we finally get the truth — or what we can only assume is the truth — it’s less interesting than the fabrications we got earlier. Yes, getting closure is nice, but finding out what we do in the “true” version of the events is less satisfying than trying to figure out what actually happened. The build-up is far better than the result, which is a shame.
This also makes a re-watch a lot less satisfying than seeing it for the first time. Since you know that most of what you originally see isn’t what really happens, and because you know what does occur, you won’t feel the same sort of suspense that you get with the first experience. This isn’t a movie with a big twist, but the differences in the story are things you’ll probably only want to see once. Seeing them again while you can still remember what actually happened in The Hole would be pointless in my opinion. Or maybe that’s just because I didn’t have a great first experience watching The Hole.
While this is a film that does show a lot of things that don’t really happen to our characters, I’m not even sure we can believe their personalities shown during the false segments. In the first story, Liz is a much different character than she is in later ones. This could be true to the other characters as well then, or at least, I’d think so. They stay largely the same, but by the characters’ own admissions, they don’t know each other all that well. Maybe they’re just representing them how they believe they would act. Martyn wasn’t even down there, so I have to really wonder why he described events that he couldn’t have seen. There’s so many moments where we’re not sure what’s real and what isn’t, rendering large portions of the film somewhat pointless.
The final story, which ends up being told in the final 20 minutes, hinges solely on one character’s stupidity. One of the people in The Hole makes one easily reversible decision that puts all of their lives in danger, but never thinks to fix it, despite easily being able to. I hate when characters make such idiotic decisions, especially if they’re easy to reverse. If there’s anything that ruins The Hole for me, it’s the final 20 minutes, right up until the final frame, which makes absolutely no sense. (Although saying why would spoil most of the film, so I’ll abstain from that.)
The Hole gave me moments of suspense, but in the end, nothing I saw was worth sitting through it. The plot ends up undermining everything we see, considering the majority of the experience is fabricated. By the time the credits began to roll, I was tired of being mislead, I was ashamed that I watched a character make such a stupid, yet completely fixable, decision, and I knew that there was no reason to re-watch this movie. It’s good up to a certain point, but then it gets silly and begins making the earlier scenes pointless.