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Film / The Hole

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Desperate to get in. Dying to get out.

This 2001 British thriller is about a young woman, Liz, who mysteriously reappears after having vanished from her private school for 17 days. A young psychiatrist takes on her case and finds out a disconcerting truth about what happened to Liz and what happened to the other three students (Mike, Geoff and Frankie) who also went missing at the same time Liz did...

Based on the 1993 novel After the Hole by Guy Burt (who also wrote SOPHIE), the film starred Thora Birch as Liz, Keira Knightley as Frankie, Embeth Davidtz as Dr. Phillipa, Laurence Fox as Geoff and Desmond Harrington as Mike.

Not to be confused with a 2009 thriller movie with also called "The Hole", or with yet another work called The Hole which is a gay porn parody of The Ring, or with the movie Holes by Louis Sachar, or with The Hole in the Ground (2019).

This film provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The book summarizes that Liz is an Unreliable Narrator, that everybody but her died in the Hole in a few lines, which is revealed halfway through the movie.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Although Mike does kill Geoff, it is an impulsive accident. Little is learned about Mike for certain in the book, but it's heavily implied that he raped Liz while they were trapped in the Hole.
    • Martyn, relatively. In the book, although it's suggested that he may not even exist, he is portrayed both as an irredeemable sociopath and a rapist; in the film, he is merely Liz's patsy.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Liz in the book is never confirmed to be evil or in any way responsible for what happened, although it's definitely a possibility. In the film, she is explicitly the mastermind of events all because of her petty crush on Mike.
  • Adapted Out: Book character Alex does not appear in the movie.
  • Adults Are Useless: In this case Liz Dunn knows their uses and manipulates them for her own ends.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Subverted. The teens start to look quite nasty after being locked up for ten days with minimal food and water. Frankie's body is especially unpleasant. A contrast is drawn to Liz's version of events where everyone looks fine because she made it all up.
  • Beauty to Beast: Frankie is the most beautiful girl in the school, but she loses all her good looks and becomes emaciated and disfigured as she gradually starves in the bunker. Even if she was rescued, she would probably never be beautiful again.
  • Bunker Woman: With a literal bunker. Albeit that is the girl behind it, and she's pretending to be just as trapped.
  • Cerebus Callback: In Liz's version of events the group make up a fake scenario to fool Martyn. The scene is done comically but then when We see the real story the same things they used appear again such as Frankie getting sick (and eventually dying), the water going off and everyone ganging up on Liz.
  • Chekhov's Gun: We get some very obvious zoom ins of the old ladder rocking when people climb up and down but it doesn't come into play until the very end when Mike jumps on it to catch Liz, causing it to break and stab him.
  • Closed Circle: The bunker thanks to Liz.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Mike is prone to rattling off a lot of curse words. But hey, he's a teenager.
    "Hey, I'm not fucking retarded. The fucking door won't fucking open!"
  • Coitus Uninterruptus:
    • Mike and Liz have to sit in the same room and try to sleep while Frankie and Geoff go at it. Liz opens her bed covers and looks pointedly at Mike, wanting to drown out Frankie and Geoff's noises with some of their own, but Mike turns her down. Averted when Geoff interrupts Mike and Liz getting into some heavy petting by telling them that Frankie is very sick.
    • Implied to be held straight that same night with Mike and Liz as they are shown sleeping in the same bed before she wakes up to find Frankie's body.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Played for Laughs. After Liz's failed attempt to get Mike to notice her, she comes into Martyn's room and plops herself on the couch to draw an obvious parallel with a psychologist's office. Which adds another layer of humour when you realise that's actually where she really is as she's telling the story.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male: Played with. Annoyed that Mike is paying attention to Frankie, Liz pulls him off her and hits his head off the wall. Mike says "Are you fucking nuts?" while Geoff and Frankie clap.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: In-universe example. Liz's obsession with Mike, including trapping him down in a bunker so that he's willing to sleep with her when he wouldn't normally, is shown to be creepy and horrifying. Liz however views it as a tragic love story.
  • Downer Ending: It was all Liz's fault; she held herself, Frankie, Mike and Geoff hostage because she wanted Mike to fall in love with her, and caused Frankie's death, and had Mike murder Geoff because of what he thought to be the last can of stuff to drink they had; Mike found out about Liz when he woke up to see her opening the door of the "hole", he angrily climbed up the stairs to wring her neck and unfortunately ended up getting killed. The psychiatrist knows the truth, but Liz managed to set a trap on her and to pin the blame on somebody else - Martyn, who she has drowned right after hiding the key in his pocket. And in an alternate ending we see her beginning another obsession, now with long blonde hair and calling herself 'Beth'.
  • Dramatic Drop: Liz drops the biscuit jar she is holding when Martyn hammers unexpectedly on the door. This provides a minor Chekhov's Gun to make her mother think Philippa kidnapped her from the house.
  • Driven to Suicide: Liz frames Martyn for the crimes, making it look like a suicide.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Liz shows genuine remorse for Frankie's death and actually was planning to open the bunker the night she died.
  • Everyone Loves Blondes: Liz attempts to invoke this thinking Mike will fancy her and so dyes her hair blonde. Then she notices that she's literally surrounded by blonde bimbos trying to get Mike's attention.
  • Evil Wears Black: Once it's revealed that Liz is an Unreliable Narrator, she's shown dressed in black with much darker make-up.
  • Face Heel Door Slam: Liz is given two opportunities to undo what she did. The first is when she's about to unlock the door but then discovers Frankie's body. The second is when the psychologist hears her story and says she has to make a statement. Liz then pretends to be innocent and that she was forced into the bunker.
  • Fanservice:
    • In the bunker, when Liz and Mike discover the microphones in the air vents, Mike and Geoff are wearing nothing but their boxers.
    • Frankie briefly flashes her breasts for no apparent reason - just to tease Geoff who has a Raging Stiffie.
    • Liz wears a see-through shirt with a bra underneath through parts of it.
  • Faux Horrific: After the hair dyeing scene mentioned above we see something red spilling into the bath. It turns out Liz just dyed her hair back.
  • Final Girl: Liz fits a lot of the requirements - brunette, more modest, slightly wallflowerish, brainy but in the actual events, we see she's not like that at all.
  • Foreshadowing: Philippa's briefing of the police before they bring Martyn actually refers to Liz rather than him.
    • "Narcissistic personality" Liz in her story paints herself as the most responsible and level-headed member of the group, and she has a sequence where she sets herself apart from the other airheaded bimbos at school.
    • "Probably thinks he's above the law" - Liz refuses to take responsibility and writes it off as "something that went wrong."
    • "Coming up with a very strong alibi" - Liz's entire first version of events.
  • The Ghost: Mike's ex-girlfriend Amber is mentioned several times but never appears on-screen.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Frankie, who keeps bottles in her dorm room.
  • Hidden Depths: Geoff especially seems like a typical Jerk Jock but turns out to genuinely care for Frankie.
  • High-School Hustler: Liz's original story portrays Martyn as this; able to get hold of anything for a price, including the keys to the bunker. Later events indicate that this is a complete fabrication on Liz's part; part of her plan to frame Martyn.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Liz stumbling into the school after getting out of the bunker.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: After Liz reveals to Mike that she locked them in order to make him fall in love with her, Mike curses her and threatens to kill her. Before he can get to her, the ladder he's climbing on breaks and stabs him in the chest.
  • Important Haircut: Subverted. Liz dyes her hair blonde to get Mike to notice her. When she sees she's surrounded by blonde bimbos doing the same, she dyes it back to her natural brown. Ironically her actress Thora Birch is naturally blonde.
  • In Name Only: The book and the film share a premise and character names, and that's about it. Maybe.
  • Inspector Javert: DCS Howard is almost desperate to pin the case on Martyn.
  • Irony: After Frankie's death, Geoff blames Liz for everything (because the party was her idea), and then apologises for his outburst. Little does he know how right he is.
  • Jerk Jock: Mike and Geoff, rugby players who rough house and bully other people.
  • Karma Houdini: Liz. She trapped her friends down to the hole so she could get Mike to fall in love with her. When that didn't work, she pinned the blame on Martyn by hiding the key in his pocket. And she got away with everything. If you don't take the deleted ending as canon, it does leave it open for Philippa to bust her eventually.
  • Lewd Lust, Chaste Sex: In spades. Thora Birch and her romantic interest have a standing make-out-and-grope session, while the camera keeps them dead centre. Later, when the love interest takes her virginity, it's offscreen, and all we hear are her not-too-sexy grunting noises.
  • Like Goes with Like: Downplayed. The two blondes - Geoff and Frankie - become a couple. The two brunettes - Mike and Liz - eventually do it too.
  • Lovable Alpha Bitch: Frankie in Liz's story. Then we see the real story and she's a typical Alpha Bitch.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: In order to win the affections of Mike, Liz arranges for them to be locked underground for nearly two weeks. This results in the death of Frankie, Geoff and Mike, and ultimately Martyn, who Liz murders to cover up her crimes.
  • Make Way for the Princess: Frankie's character introduction.
  • Male Frontal Nudity: Geoff and the rest of the rugby team go full frontal for a scene in which Frankie walks through the boys' locker room.
  • Manipulative Bitch : Liz again
  • Manly Tears: Geoff and Mike when Frankie dies. Martyn also has a big breakdown.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Mike when he murders Geoff in a fit of rage, Liz also appears to have a moment like this, though how genuine it is...
    "I've killed all of you!"
  • My Hair Came Out Green: In Liz's first version of events, she attempts to dye her hair with peroxide from the lab and something catastrophic happens, but Frankie is able to fix it for her.
  • No Dress Code: Liz is apparently allowed to dye her hair herself at a posh boarding school, using peroxide she stole from the science lab! Likely another clue that she's making everything up.
  • Not Like Other Girls: Liz is this in the first version of events - studious, practical, intelligent, and not blonde. Turns out she's not like the other girls because they're not sociopathic!
  • Not What It Looks Like: Martyn confronts Liz in her house, leading to her breaking a biscuit tin in the kitchen. Later, Philippa visits Liz and is seen taking her away in her car just as Mrs Dunn arrives home. She then phones the station, claiming Liz has been abducted.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Each of the protagonists - Elizabeth (Liz), Michael (Mike), Frances (Frankie), Geoffrey (Geoff). Oddly on the school records, Geoff is just down as that, but the coroner refers to him as 'Geoffrey'.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Thora Birch slips out of the English accent a couple of times - notably when she says "I've got food". Of course it would make sense for Liz to have a few American pronunciations if she's trying to impress Mike.
  • Pet the Dog: Despite being portrayed as the Alpha Bitch, Frankie helps Liz fix her hair after the disaster with the peroxide, and is quite sweet about it. Of course, this is part of one of Liz's fabrications and probably never happened.
  • Pink Means Feminine: Frankie the Alpha Bitch is seen wearing a pink dress in an early scene with Liz, brings several pink things down to the bunker with her and her accessory is an inflatable pink chair. Her dorm room in the school is painted pink as well.
  • The Place: What happened at the hole is the focus of the story.
  • Plenty of Blondes: Played for Drama as Liz nearly has some kind of anxiety attack when she sees herself surrounded by blonde bimbos all determined to catch Mike's eye.
  • Police Are Useless: Played with. The majority of police in the film just seem to want to pin the case on Martyn even when he's actually innocent. The police psychologist is the only one who actually investigates further into the case.
  • Questionable Consent: There's a scene where Mike and Geoff both start seducing Frankie - despite her attempting to rebuff them. It's unclear if she's only protesting because Mike is supposed to be Liz's. And the fact that she was clearly high.
  • Red Herring: Martyn, as invoked by Liz.
  • The Reveal: Liz had the key. And she locked them in.
  • Rugby Is Slaughter: Mike, who is American, is shown throwing the rugby ball gridiron style. As he does so, he is viciously tackled by one of the opposing players. Mike then hauls off and punches the guy in the face, which starts a brawl between the two sides. It is later shown that Mike does know how to play rugby and was just mucking about when he decided to throw the ball.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Martyn is a real nerd who of course has glasses.
  • The Sociopath: Liz shows some remorse for getting her friends killed but ultimately views it as an accident and "something that went wrong" that's not worth "ruining my life" over.
  • Tempting Fate: Lampshaded as Frankie tells the boys to stop saying 'what if something happens to Martyn and later blames them when he doesn't turn up. In the first version of the story anyway.
  • The Tease: Frankie. And unfortunately for Geoff, he's looking away when she decides to actually flash him.
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted initially as the police therapist guesses early on that Liz is making her story up but then played straight when she's unable to get Liz caught for her actions.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Liz is presented as a more down-to-earth brainiac who has troubles with things like hair dye, compared to glamorous pink-loving Alpha Bitch Frankie. Naturally the real flashbacks show that this is another lie created by Liz.
  • Trailers Always Lie: This might be the prime example; this trailer promotes the movie like it's some kind of Slasher Movie when it's clearly not. This may have been in the interests of making Martyn seem a more convincing Red Herring.
  • Unreliable Narrator:
    • The psychiatrist knows Liz is being this one when her story has a happy ending, given the fact that all the other kids in The Hole with her are dead. Though she doesn't know that the reason for the inconsistent story is because it's all Liz's fault.
    • This is even more true in the book, since the entire thing is from Liz's perspective, and we only get a hint of the truth at the end in the doctor's letter, which makes a reference to Liz being "the only survivor."
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: Frankie is shown vomiting into the toilet after getting sick from the dirty water. This marks the point where the situation in the bunker begins to deteriorate rapidly.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mike is definitely set on outright killing Liz when he finds out what she's done. He doesn't get very far however.
  • Yandere: Liz. She trapped the others in the hole, so she could get closer to Mike.

The book contains examples of:

  • Collective Identity: The ending strongly implies that Liz and Lisa are the same person, as are Mike and Martyn, but this is never confirmed.
  • Epilogue Letter: The book concludes with a letter from Philippa.
  • Fictional Counterpart: The book is based on a thinly-disguised version of Charterhouse, where the author was a student.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Martyn fully crosses the line when he rapes Lisa...or, from another perspective, when Mike rapes Liz.
  • Scrapbook Story: Liz and "Lisa" tell the story through journal entries and, apparently, cassettes recorded of their experiences in and outside of the Hole.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Liz is a much more evasive one here, not specifying how anybody died or even that they did, although it's never confirmed why she did.
  • Villain Ball: In an amazing act of Third Act Stupidity, after he rapes Lisa, Martyn just...walks out and leaves her to find the tapes he recorded of the captives in the Hole. However, this is fully justified, as it's lampshaded by the psychologist how unlikely this is, and it's suggested to be another hallmark of Liz's status as the Unreliable Narrator.
  • Wham Line: The psychiatrist's notes at the end are full of them, but especially this apparent throwaway, that "Michael died on the fourteenth day." Liz has herself had Mike surviving and the Hole is over in less than a week.