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HOLE, THE (LE REFUGE) (director: Nick Hamm; screenwriters: from the novel “After the Hole” by Guy Burt/Ben Court/Caroline Ip; cinematographer: Dennis Crossan; editor: Niven Howie; music: Clint Mansell; cast: Thora Birch (Liz Dunn), Desmond Harrington (Mike Steel), Daniel Brocklebank (Martin Taylor), Laurence Fox (Geoff Bingham), Keira Knightley (Frankie Alton Smith), Embeth Davidtz (Dr Phillippa Horwood), Steven Waddington (DCS Tom Howard); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jeremy Bolt/Lisa Boyer/Pippa Cross; Seville Pictures; 2001-UK)
“Has a good ambiguous premise but comes apart when it must reach a conclusion if its protagonist, Liz Dunn (Thora Birch), is a psychopath or a victim.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nick Hamm (“Godsend”/”The Very Thought of You“) helms this stylish Brit teen thriller that has a good ambiguous premise but comes apart when it must reach a conclusion if its protagonist, Liz Dunn (Thora Birch), is a psychopath or a victim. The truth when revealed makes everything prior seem contrived and the pic loses its credibility.It’s based onthe novel “After the Hole” by Guy Burtand is written byBen Court and Caroline Ip.

English boarding school student Liz is one of four classmates missing for the last two weeks, but suddenly appears disorientated and unable to say what happened as she is roaming the empty corridors of her elite school before discovered. Liz reluctantly tells police psychologist Dr Phillippa Horwood (Embeth Davidtz), after much prodding, that the four students were trapped inside an abandoned wartime army bunker (the film’s so called ‘hole’). The other students trapped are the jock Geoff Bingham (Laurence Fox), his pretty girlfriend Frankie Alton Smith (Keira Knightley) and his best friend, the son of a popular rock star, Mike Steel (Desmond Harrington). The way Liz’s first version comes out, is that she has a crush on hunky Mike and gets her geeky school fixer friend Martin Taylor (Daniel Brocklebank) to fix it so that the four students hide-out undetected in the “hole” in the woods and party instead of going on a field trip to Wales or home to their parents for the three day holiday. Liz schemes to become close to Mike, while Martin gets money from the boys for his effort and credit for helping out the popular students. According to Liz, the other three died because Martin failed to open the door as promised. When the police grill him, they must release him because there’s no proof of his involvement.

By the time we see several other versions enacted, as if we were watching Rashomon, the shrink gets Liz to tell her how the other students died and we see more and more things she’s not at first telling us.

The bleak pic couldn’t sustain the suspense and the fine acting job by Birch (the American actress has a nice Brit accent) and her co-stars could only take us so far. At least it didn’t rely on cheap shocks from the supernatural and let its surroundings provide the fright. But that last version, as how it’s resolved, is too absurd to take seriously.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”