“John and the Hole” drops you into the eerie, ethereal world of a young boy who keeps his family captive in a trench in the ground, and doesn’t let you out. The boy is played by Charlie Shotwell, and his family by Jennifer Ehle, Taissa Farmiga, and Michael C. Hall. The latter three spend the majority of the movie trapped in a pit, crawling up the walls, and squirming in their own filth. The film was an official selection of the canceled 2020 Cannes Film Festival before finally world-premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2021. Ahead of the movie’s release on August 6 from IFC Films in theaters and on demand, watch the trailer below.
The film is directed by Pascual Sisto and written by Nicolas Giacobone, an Academy Award winner for co-writing “Birdman.” Though post-production wrapped just before lockdown took over, the film does emerge as a metaphor for the pandemic in hindsight.
“It was completely unintentional obviously, but there is something [where] you empathize differently, and you feel what it’s like to be locked in your own thoughts,” Sisto told IndieWire at Sundance. But he also said that the movie is really about adolescence through the eyes of a 13-year-old. “It’s a very fragile and vulnerable state, and [we were] trying to capture how he enters or tries to enter adulthood.” That could similarly be read as a metaphor for how we will all try to re-enter the world once lockdown is over.
Giacobone said it’s “also about the mystery of families… We live in a way believing that we know what it is like to be a mother or a father, or even a son, and we actually don’t. We’re strangers that share blood and genes, but we never quit being individuals.”
From IndieWire’s review out of Sundance: The icy debut from installation artist Pascual Sisto unfolds with the sparsity of a drama begging for further elaboration… At the same time, Sisto’s austere narrative adds a solid entry in the “creepy kid” subgenre of psychological thrillers, with the ominous and strange tale of a 13-year-old boy who holds his affluent family captive in an old bunker near their home. A scary, solipsistic variation on “Home Alone,” the movie turns on the twisted appeal of watching its young anti-hero attempt to steal his way into the adult realm and realize he’s trapped himself.