John and the Hole

  • 07 Aug - 13 Aug, 2021
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Reviews

John (Charlie Shotwell) is a dead-eyed 13-year-old living with his wealthy family in a luxurious house surrounded by woodland. After encountering a bunker close-by, John decides to drug his parents (Michael C Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and sister (Taissa Farmiga) and leave them down there. As they scramble for a reason, as well as wait patiently for infrequent food and water deliveries, John carries on with his new life, one without as many rules but with a great deal more responsibilities.

In the first act, it’s hard not to be intrigued, an interesting escalation of boundary-pushing as John checks the limits of the world around him and tests what he might be capable of, the things he might be able to do and whether some form of conscience might stop him. There is a great deal of dream logic that is then required for him to drug his family and physically move them all the way down into the bunker, given his age and slight frame, but Giacobone intersperses his script with scenes of a mother telling her daughter a story, clueing us in that everything might not be as it seems. This genuine early creepiness though turns into a fear that actually, Giacobone doesn’t really have much to say or do with his concept, like it was written on the fly, an elevator pitch panicked into production.

Teases of something more to grab on to come and go as the story progresses with John inviting a rambunctious friend to the house, both of them as fascinated by a morbid drowning game as they are by the idea of unlimited fast food, before the realities of adulthood start to dawn, a world of promise and agency but also one that’s messier and crueler than what came before. Investment starts to fade as intrigue turns to boredom and as hard as Shotwell might try, he’s given so little to work with that he starts to seem as lost as we feel.

As a calling card, Sisto shows an assured hand and one can see him being snapped up to make an “elevated” arthouse horror, an ease with creating unease that will be utilised far more efficiently in the future. For now, he’s stuck dressing up what is revealed to be nothing much of anything, a hole that’s been diligently dug but remains completely empty.

– Compilation