John and the Hole review – a spooky coming-of-age fable | Horror films

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WHow does it feel to be an adult? That’s the question that haunts a privileged, empathetic teenager in this chilling satirical feature film from Spanish filmmaker and visual artist Pascual Sisto. Adapted by screenwriter and co-producer Nicolás Giacobone (whose screen credits include Biutiful and Bird man) of his new El Pozo, John and the hole combines dime trap horror riffs with the absurd unease of European arthouse cinema and a common thread of a fairy tale. While the result may not be as deep as the cave at the center of the story, it does have a beguiling ice shard at its heart.

Sisto opens with a 4×3 close-up of 13-year-old John’s face (Charlie Shotwell, horror star 2019 Eli) as an offscreen teacher asks: “What is the square root of 225?” “I don’t know,” John replies, apparently having been lost in his own thoughts. “Yes you to do, John, ”the professor’s voice insists, prompting him to release“ 15 ”. “How did you come to this conclusion?” “I don’t know…” It’s an enigmatic curtain raiser that compactly establishes the key elements of the story: John’s numb isolation (he’s the only recognizable figure in the frame); the anguish of youth (his eyes betray a hint of panic); his intelligence, accompanied by a lack of understanding (he knows the answer, but does not know How? ‘Or’ What).

After setting her twisted coming-of-age table, the film unfolds in a creepy and unmoved way. We meet John’s family through the windows of their aquarium, cinematographer Paul Özgür’s camera staring like a prowler of the adjacent woods as they eat their dinner from a distance. They are a typical dysfunctional unit. Jennifer Ehle’s Anna takes sleeping pills which John takes and later deploys for underhanded purposes. Daddy Brad (Michael C Hall) is worried about Josh, the invisible boy who is dating his daughter, Laurie (Taissa Farmiga). Meanwhile, John flies a drone over the forest, discovering the remains of an unfinished bunker. As her parents explained, “Sometimes people build these underground houses… in case something bad happens. They don’t realize that something “bad” is brewing, as their helpless son seeks to become the man of the house.

With allusions to Austrian psychodrama good night mom, there are weird echoes of Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor Helen as we follow John in a yellow T-shirt through the dense green woods. Back home, we are in the land of Haneke, with still and long images of bourgeois life, haunted by the ghosts of the alarming drama of 1992 Benny’s video. Hidden behind his bangs, Shotwell invests John with a mixture of curiosity and insularity, displaying the same questioning boredom whether he bounces a tennis ball off the ceiling or puts his family in the hole.

Freed from parental care, John’s adventures in the land of adults are disturbingly banal: driving the family car, using an ATM, making risotto. At one point, he appears to be making an awkward pass to a visiting family friend in his 50s, but even that just seems like an attempt to imitate something the adults do. would do. For the most part, he is more interested in the suffocating rituals of drowning, childishly seeking the meaning of life in visions of the Virgin Mary in swimsuits.

Perhaps most intriguing is the fact that, 30 minutes later, Sisto and Giacobone shift their attention from the main story to that of another youngster, Lily, who dreams of being “blue in the blue” – invisible. . Like a character in a Grimm brothers’ fable, Lily’s mother is about to abandon her by telling this 12 year old girl (“I thought you were 13”) that she is “old enough to go.” be alone now ”. But first, she tells him a story – the story of John and the Hole, thus giving Sisto’s film a pre-title streak longer than No time to die and adding a touch of Pirandello to Anna’s question: “Does anyone manufacturing Are you doing this? “

Caterina Barbieri’s musical sequences act as a horror-tinged counterpoint to Scottish composer Anna Meredith’s work on Eigth year, while the superb sound design by Nicolas Becker (garlanded with Oscars for The sound of metal) captures the alien landscape of John’s inner world, filled with unsettling buzzes, both natural and mechanical.


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