Friday, 1 March 2019


It would appear that 2019 is all set to be the year of the spooky kid. With the much anticipated Brightburn and The Prodigy on the way, eerily blank-faced little boys are the genre’s must-have right now.

The first of this batch of films, Irish director Lee Cronin’s The Hole In The Ground is already gathering plenty of hype following a stellar reception at Sundance, and has even been called this year’s The Babadook by some critics.

So would I want to dive in? Or would I want to leave it long buried?

Read on...


DIR: Lee Cronin
STARRING: Seana Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall, Eoin Macken, Sarah Hanly, James Cosmo, Kati Outinen

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

The Hole In The Ground is the story of a strong but fragile single mother, Sarah (Kerslake) and her crumbling relationship with her odd son Christopher (Markey). 

Opening shortly after the pair moves into the creakiest creepiest house in all of rural Ireland, following an implied hellish ordeal at the hands of young Christopher's abusive father, the story really picks up steam after a trip into the nearby forest reveals a gargantuan sinkhole, while an ominous rant from the local crazy old lady with a tragic backstory of her own (Outinen) suggests all is not as it seems. 

Soon Christopher’s demeanour becomes all but unrecognisable, causing Sarah to wonder if the boy that returned from the woods is really her son...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): First time feature director Cronin made waves with his acclaimed short Ghost Train (and eagle-eyed viewers may well spot a shout-out to that excellent piece of entertainment) and the scare-crafting skills on display there are evident in this movie too. 

At times genuinely unnerving, if the success of a horror flick is measured in scariness The Hole In The Ground absolutely delivers. It looks fantastic, and even the quieter moments drip with an all-pervading sense of dread.

Cronin’s eye for a shot really brings the film to life, turning the dank forest into a character all of its own, while it also boasts some impressive and understated effects during a couple of the more nightmarish moments.

The film is certainly buoyed by its sterling cast. The terrific Kerslake really is quite incredible, giving a rich and layered performance as Sarah. She manages to portray a woman n the edge without ever becoming annoying, and she also gets a chance to do something decidedly creepy late on in the movie that might just be the most chilling of all the scares in the film.

Markey is also brilliant in his big screen debut - at times sweet and cute, others unnerving and eerie. I fully expect to hear both mentioned during Awards season later this year.

As well as the two incredible leads, there are also stand-out turns from great character actors Outinen and Cosmo, who is as fantastic as ever - but if you see his name on a project I'm sure most of you know that is what you're getting.

These cast complement the story co-written by Cronin and Stephen Shields. They bring the well-written characters to life, while a deliberate but steady pace sees the fear ratchet up steadily as some skillfully worked set pieces provide regular jolts and aid in the telling of the story. 

Speaking of the plot, it also earns points for the way in which it takes a healthy dollop of folklore from the Emerald Isle as the basis of its frights. It's something I'd love to see even more of from now on.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): While The Hole In The Ground is undoubtedly very good, I do feel it is a touch premature to be mentioning it in the same breath as modern classics such as the aforementioned The Babadook or Robert Eggers’ The VVitch

The Hole In The Ground isn’t quite as smart as Jessica Kent’s grief allegory, nor does it feel as groundbreaking in what it does as Eggers' 2015 period chiller.

It is a good story, but it is one you have probably heard before. Of course, in horror it isn't so much the story as how it is told that matters (just look at the hundreds of slasher movies from the Eighties as a case in point, then consider just how much the classics differ from Halloween's much celebrated template). 

Another small sticking point would be the ending of the film - obviously I cannot ruin that here, but it did feel as if it were going to offer up a nightmarish twist, that ultimately never came. I can't help but wonder how much more impact the movie might have had if it embraced the darkness of such a nihilistic conclusion. Still, what we do get is very enjoyable indeed, so perhaps I'd be better off appreciating what we do get.

THE VERDICT: As I said before, comparisons to The Babadook might serve to harm The Hole In The Ground in the long term. Sadly nothing can be done about hype once it has started to gather steam.

Perhaps this finely crafted little tale is better off compared with other recent offerings from across the Irish Sea, such as Corin Hardy’s The Hallow or Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal - and it is arguably even better than those very good films.

The Hole In The Ground is an easy recommendation for those of you looking for a slick, sophisticated horror movie.

There’s no burying your head in the sand here - The Hole In The Ground establishes Cronin as a real talent to watch in the future - and as somebody who called this shot back when I reviewed Ghost train more than four years ago, I couldn't be happier to be right!

The Hole In The Ground is in cinemas from today - 1st March - by Vertigo Releasing.

Go check it out - and check out the film's official Facebook page here.

If you haven’t already, do please check out and Like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog. Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House @HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


Long-term readers of this blog may recall the quirky indie flick Faces that I reviewed way back in March 2015. 

It was an imaginative and intelligent movie that ticked a hell of a lot of boxes. 

So you can imagine my delight when the good folks at Theatre of Terror asked if I would like to take a look at their newest offering, a throw-back anthology flick, named after the production company itself. 

Would this be a showstopper? Or would I be wishing for the final curtain? 

Read on... 


Dir: Tom Ryan

STARRING: Tom Ryan, Lauren Renahan, Heather Brittain O’Scanlon, Adam Ginsberg, Scott Gorbach, Sarah Schoofs, Russell Hackett, Bob Cleary, Alan Rowe Kelly, Randy Memoli, Marc Abbott, Christopher J. Murphy, Paugh Shadow, Tim O’Hearn, Tommie McGuckin, Heather Drew, Patrick ‘Bone Man’ Boyer

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

The Theatre of Terror opens with a young woman (Renahan) discovering a flier about a campaign to save a historical movie theatre facing closure.

Upon arrival, she encounters the theatre’s decidedly odd proprietor (Ryan) who proceeds to demonstrate the power of film by showing her a series of gripping and disturbing shorts.

The first of these - The Gift - follows a woman (O’Scanlon) who has lost an enviable career, a loving family, and her own sense of self-worth. Resorting to prostitution, a nightmarish encounter with a customer sees her forced to take refuge in a quaint antique store. But is there more to the shopkeeper (Ginsberg) and his wares?

The second story - The Bookworm - follows an introverted young man (Gorbach) who uses his sizeable inheritance to purchase a library. However, he soon comes to suspect that more than literature can be found on its dusty bookshelves.

The third segment - Abducted - is the story of simple Ned (Hackett) who becomes captivated by a series of strange phenomena in the forest near his home in the wake of a number of mysterious disappearances.

The fourth story is entitled Endangered and follows a group of animal rights activists (including Renahan again) who decide to take action to protect the local grey wolf population. However, after an act of sabotage goes awry, they realise that isn’t just the wolves that are at risk in these woods.

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): The Theatre of Terror director Ryan has made no secret of the fact that this movie is his love letter to classic anthology shows such as The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. With that in mind, the movie delivers in spades.

There’s real variety in each of the stories contained within, and they take on a wide range of themes and sub-genres. But the thing that makes Ryan’s movie stand out from the crowd is a focus on characters.

Each segment feels as if it is the characters that Ryan has created that drive the story, rather than a ‘cool’ set-piece or plot twist. It makes each story more gripping because you actually know, understand, and - most importantly - care about the protagonists.

It certainly helps Ryan’s cause that he has assembled some very talented actors for the movie. Both Heather Brittain O’Scanlon and Adam Ginsberg from The Gift are arguably the standouts.

O’Scanlon is quite brilliant and delivers a brave, believable, heartbreaking performance that left me eager to see more of her in the future.

There are also impressive and show-stealing turns from the subtle and assured Gorbach and a crackling and maniacal Alan Rowe Kelly, whose Tales of Poe was well reviewed here at the House before.

The actors are given plenty to work with, even with the comparative brevity of each short, and they run with it.

These are not just compelling storylines, they are diverse too, meaning that even if you may not like one of the segments one of the others is sure to hit the spot. From psychological dramas to gory creature features, Ryan shows his range throughout The Theatre of Terror.

Often ambitious undertakings, such as the monster effects that are central to a couple of the shorts here, suffer in indie flicks due to budgetary constraints. However, there are a couple of great practical effects on display here, in both the Bookworm and Endangered segments, that are genuinely great.

Credit too must go to the ToT scouting team for securing the historic Loew Theatre for the wrap-around segments of the story. The beautiful and dramatically ornate old picture house is the perfect setting for this film, a building so rich in character that it practically becomes one in Ryan’s story. Wonderful work.

And while the visual effects are undoubtedly impressive, it is Ryan’s direction that packs the biggest visual punch. He knows how to frame a shot, to tell a story through his visuals, and the right times at which to use subtlety to create far more effective chills than over-the-top gore and jump scares.

This sort of dread-inducing storytelling was used so effectively back in the days when The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Night Gallery ruled the airwaves. It’s only fitting that a man paying homage to these shows should have such a strong grasp on what made them so iconic to begin with. 

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): It grates on me to have to do this so often, but it is necessary to point out that while a very impressive indie movie, The Theatre of Terror is still an indie movie nonetheless.

This means that it doesn’t quite have the polish that you might see in a multi-million dollar big screen offering such as those churned out by Blumhouse. Do please adjust some of your expectations accordingly.

One such example here might be during the Abducted segment. While the visual effects that bring the Bookworm and Alpha Beast to life in the segments I mentioned above are quite fantastic, those on display here don’t quite hit their lofty standards.

Another possible problem to some viewers is one that is endemic in all anthologies - unless the viewer has a very wide range of tastes, some segments are likely to leave them cold. What’s more, the difference in tone can jar somewhat and The Theatre of Terror is no different.

This is a tough criticism to make - variety is essential to the success of an anthology, otherwise it becomes repetitive and uninspiring very quickly, but it does affect cohesiveness.

Ryan has cleverly slowly escalated his stories, starting with the quietest and most subtle, slowing building to the most extreme of his tales. However, this does have an effect on the pacing. The first half of the movie is significantly slower than the second. I enjoyed the subtlety of these quieter early stories, but genre fans of more intense fare may well find themselves clock watching here.

Those same fans may also find fault with the scares on hand too. Not every segment is an out-and-out horror story, and most (like the classic TV series that inspired them) are perhaps more creepy than a nerve-shredding fear fest. If you are looking to be left unable to sleep in terror, this is probably not the movie for you.

VERDICT: The Theatre of Terror is my kind of anthology. It shows variety and heart in its storytelling, no shortage of skill in its filmmaking, a strong and compelling cast, and a note-perfect callback to some of the greatest shows to ever shape the genre.

No, it’s not a perfect movie, suffering from a few of the problems inherent in this form of storytelling, but Ryan’s work is never less than charming. It’s a fine showcase for the talents of him and his clearly very dedicated cast and crew. If you are in the mood for a clever, creepy throwback with plenty of heart, Theatre of Terror is the movie for you.

You can buy the movie at its official web site here. Also, check out Theatre of Terror’s Facebook page here - why not give it a like while you’re there? I’m sure these very talented filmmakers would appreciate it!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and Like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House @HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.