Joe Dante in his prime was a master of that delicate art of making shit movies you can't help but fall in love with. That sounds a little patronizing I know, but its really not meant to be. With films like The Howling or The 'Burbs or Gremlins he takes what could be considered to be lesser material and he makes it enjoyable in the purest sense. He makes horror funny without losing the scary and while you're not exactly going to call him a Spielberg, he's got a good looking CV up until say, post Gremlins 2. A lot has been written about The Hole being a comeback movie for Dante, and while I wouldn't exactly say that, its very thin and can't really be considered a patch on the work he's done before. Its just great to see him making movies again.
The Hole feels a little too much like a studio back-burner project. The kind of script everyone thought was OK, but felt in no urgent rush to make until the time came a long to do it quick, do it cheap and make a little money of it. Dante brings a few moments of the blackly comic manic glee that is a stable of his previous work, but overall the film is too thin, too basic and lacks the strong characters present in past Dante films. I had the worst case of 'who's that guy' whilst watching this film I've had in a very long time. I recognized the face of The Hole's leading bland teen male, but I couldn't place him for shit. Until I went on IMDB when I got to researching this movie and I saw that Chris Massoglia was the equally bland and forgettable teen lead in Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant. Far out. Anyway he's kind of bland and forgettable here, as is superflous love interest character Julie, played by Haley Bennett, although its commendable given her fairly limited screen time how many times Dante gets her in a bikini. The best of the kids of probably Nathan Gamble, the kid brother of Massoglia, as he manages to be game and likable getting stalked by a killer clown toy.
The concept of the central Hole is a sort of good idea, but the answer behind it turns out to be kind of lame, and thus the film in its final third kind of loses the homemade, scary atmosphere it develops in the first two-thirds. Having said that, its kind of cool to have a kids movie be this scary, and it earns its 12A certificate with more then one excellently executed moment of creepiness, as is the way with Dante. But like I said, there's just not enough going on here to make it anything more then a mildly enjoyable diversion which you forget ten minutes after you leave the cinema. which in a way is exactly what this kind of thing is supposed to do. But Dante usually elevated his film beyond that, but not quite this time I think.