Sundance 2021: “John and the Hole”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There are not many films that leave you lost for words after the film ends. Almost like delivering a polarising effect, hypnotizing and surreal at the same time. Luckily though, apart from everything, “John and the Hole” was not based on true events, which I must say, is a comforting feeling.

John proudly tells his parents (Michael C. Hall and Jennifer Ehle) and his older sister (Taissa Farmiga) that he found a hole not far from their luxurious house. The already distant boy does the unthinkable – he drugs his family members and puts them in a bunker where they must literally survive. Providing food to them from time to time, the thirteen-year-old lives the opposite life of Kevin McCallister from “Home alone”, whose parents and sibling just step away, stuck in a hole, while he enjoys his time all alone, eating, drinking, playing computer games and ordering stuff without any restrictions.

“John and the Hole” is like a punch in the gut. As soon as the film begins, you will feel there’s something off with John. But what is that is something we can’t really figure out. It’s a psychological thriller that studies a boy with an uncontrollable temper, yet who’s very cool and content. He is smart, knows what to say, and is not violent even though there were scenes where I personally expected him to use a gun or anything sharp. He lies about his parents’ whereabouts and seems to be able to get away with anything. In the meantime, Laurie, his sister, quickly figured out it was her little brother who moved them while unconscious, into the hole. The whole problem is that John won’t say why he did that. And, to be honest, does it really matter?

Scripted by Nicolás Giacobone and directed by Pascual Sisto, “John and the Hole” is one of the most effective psychological thrillers of the year. Despite it being a slow-burning piece, it still keeps you on the edge of your seat as you expect something more sinister from John, as if putting his parents and sister into the hole was not crazy enough. Charlie Shotwell does a great job portraying a creepy boy who, instead of going out, perhaps, and killing people left and right, begins cooking. Indeed, John is a classical psychopath. Nevertheless, he looks for his own way to become an adult but in the scariest way possible.

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