Cait Dearlove & Sasha Cole
PUBLISHED 12 MARCH 2019
Irish writer and director Lee Cronin's last film was eerie 2013 short GHOST TRAIN, which won the Méliès d'Argent at Molins de Rei Horror Film Festival and picked up the Jury Prize at San Sebastián Horror and Fantasy Film Festival. His on-going interest in horror has inspired his first feature film THE HOLE IN THE GROUND. Cronin took inspiration from real stories of people going missing and adapted this into a chilling and unnerving story of a mother's doubt. Read our review here.
Cronin foregrounds once more the beautiful landscapes of rural Ireland. However, the themes of unease and doubt punctuate the film as single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) battles with uncertainty around her son Chris's (James Quinn Markey) identity. THE HOLE IN THE GROUND garnered positive attention at SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL with reactions such as "Cronin has crafted a formidable work of horror" and Kerslake's characterisation being noted as deserving of "a spot among the great heroines of horror". The film also stars Simone Kirby (PEAKY BLINDERS), Kati Outinen (THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST) and James Cosmo (BRAVEHEART).
Lee and Seána embraced the opportunity to answer our "big five and little three", discussing their inspiration for the film and how they dealt with raw emotions:
THE BIG FIVE
1. Where did the idea for the hole in the ground come from?
Lee: It came from some news stories I'd seen about people being taken by sinkholes, where the earth just collapsed beneath somebody, which is a terrifying prospect. It's like a really fantastical version of crossing the road at the wrong time and getting hit by a bus. I found that really scary and when I dug into it I found that it was a very powerful visual metaphor for all of our darkest fears. When you can find something universal like that then I felt I could make it work in the story. I'm always trying to look for the most universal thing I can. Whether it's Sarah's story IN THE HOLE OF THE GROUND or someone else's own challenges in life, you get this sense of an unknown future.
2. What attracted you to explore themes of unease and doubt?
Lee: I think being doubted in life is again a terrifying prospect and what you believe internally. If you can't get someone else to be onside with that is also a reminder that sometimes we can be a bit isolated and a bit on our own. The mental health aspect was kind of vital to that. I wasn't trying to make a social issues movie at all; it is a horror movie and it is there to entertain and to scare. But I am completely driven by character and grounding at the same time. So it felt like an important thing to say and it felt particular to the role of a single mother. There's nothing more terrifying than that idea of a dark future and facing the unknown but ultimately proving powerful and heroic. That was really inspirational to me.
Seána: I think to be doubted - when you're saying "I'm not crazy" and they're like "oh okay" - that's such a frustrating feeling. It's like when someone says "why are you angry?" and you say "I'm not angry". No matter how you say that, there is no back tracking. To be doubted and for someone not to believe what you feel is true is really frustrating. So there is a level of that within [Sarah] and the relationship she has come from and how she doubts herself... I think that is something that we all struggle with and that confidence is a huge struggle for anyone and in particular someone coming from an abusive relationship.
3. How did you switch back to Seána from Sarah? What was the process?
Seána: It depends on what's happening next. I found that you do have to give yourself a little bit of elevation or else if too much is there all the time it's not as fresh then on screen. I think you have to let a bit of air out and a bit of breathing room so, when you go home at the end of the day, you can come back into it but your whole life doesn't become it. Especially if you're in some dark head spaces it is good to give yourself a little bit of breathing room at times but know that it is still there. You have to find a way to access it, if you need the 10 minutes or 15 minutes before and knowing what you need to get into that space, rather than your whole life becoming it.
4. What was your inspiration behind using The Rattlin' Bog folk song?
Lee: It's one of a number of songs that would have been part of family sessions we had when the guitars got pulled out when I was younger. The Rattlin' Bog is a creepy song and it has a cyclical quality to it as well, which I thought was really nice and reflective of the kind of panicked state, something repeating in your head over and over again. Because what is going on in Sarah's head in that moment is "I don't think that's my boy... that's not my boy... that's not my son". Then you've got this song that's also turning at the same time kind of repeating and getting faster and faster so it felt like the perfect mechanism as a song to support this heightened panic state that she finds herself in. Because it's probably her panic high point in the story in a lot of ways because after that point she makes an admission and she starts to deal with the situation a little bit differently.
5. What was the process of finding the two leads (Seána and James Quinn Markey, who plays her son Chris)?
Lee: I had Seána in early so I wasn't going to be able to change that (laughs). We did test quite a lot of young performers at different stages. Sometimes it would just be on tape, sometimes we would get them into the room and as you advance that process we whittled it down and then did some chemistry tests with Seána. It was maybe three or four, which was nice because Seána didn't have to decide which performer she felt more comfortable with. It was this slow kind of mining.
Seána: With the unease I did have with James actually worked well but then as we got to know each other it was like "okay, we can actually have a mother/son relationship". But initially the audition processes can be quite awkward anyway, especially if you're trying to have a relationship when I'm not his mother. That all plays in.
Lee: I took as much time as I possibly could. And that's not just for me deferring a decision, that's also for the parents of the performer just to have a think what all of this going to be. It's a huge challenge. When you're bringing in an eight-year-old boy to perform a role, you're bringing in the whole family.
THE LITTLE THREE
1. If you were hosting a dinner party, which three filmmakers would you invite and why?
Seána: Alex Garland, John Cassavetes and the Duplass brothers.
2. If you were hosting a dinner party which three filmmakers would you invite and why?
Lee: Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick and Sam Raimi.
3. What are the three scariest films you have ever seen?
Both: THE SHINING, DRAG ME TO HELL and GHOST WATCH.