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Featured Blu-ray Review: The Hole / Venom

September 9th, 2012

The Hole / Venom - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Echo Bridge Entertainment specializes in bargain releases, although that's not all they do. For instance, their Degrassi releases are excellent. However, most of their releases are bargain releases. This week, they are putting out a The Hole / Venom double-feature for just $13. It's hard to argue with that price, but is either movie worth picking up? Or is the only selling point a low price-tag?

The Hole

The film beings with Elizabeth Dunn walking down a street, covered in blood. As she continues, she walks past a missing persons poster with pictures of four people on it, including her own. We quickly learn she was one of four students from a private academy that had gone missing 18 days ago. Elizabeth was the only survivor. After a medical examination, Elizabeth is interviewed by Dr. Phillipa Horwood, a psychiatrist, in part to help her heal, but also to figure out what happened.

Elizabeth then tells about how she is an outcast in school because she wasn't skinny enough or rich enough to be part of the in crowd. Her only friend was Martyn Taylor, who also wasn't rich, but is popular because he's a guy who can get you things. The school is abuzz, because Mike Steel, who is a son of a rock star, just dumped his model girlfriend and now is a free man. Elizabeth has always had a crush on him and immediately tries to become someone more like his previous girlfriend, going so far as the dye her hair blonde with peroxide from the science lab. Fortunately, she's saved from disaster by Frankie Smith, the most popular girl in school, who is not a mean queen bee. Unfortunately, it isn't enough for Mike to even notice her.

Fortunately, Martyn has a plan. Even though Martyn is in love with Elizabeth, he can't stand to see her in pain. The school is preparing for a geology field trip to Wales, which is treated as a prison term by some of the students. Martyn has already gotten Frankie out of the trip and Mike and his roommate, Geoff Bingham, also came to him to get out of the trip. He adds Elizabeth to the group. Martyn hacks into the computer system so that school thinks the four of them have gone home for the duration of the field trip, but that the parents think they've gone to Wales. In the meantime, they will hide out... in an abandoned bomb shelter. They will be locked in, with Martyn on the outside to let them out when the field trip is over. At first they think it will be a wide party situation, and at first they are right. However, when the field trip ends and Martyn doesn't return to let them out, they start to panic.

What happens next is way too far into spoiler territory.

At the moment, the film has exactly 50% reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and that's a pretty good way to describe the film's quality. It does have some strong assets, including a great setup that allows for a Rashomon-like retelling of the story that is intriguing and this allows for a major twist at the end, which is effective, mostly. The problem is, while the bones of the story is good, mostly everything else fails to connect. The characters and dialogue are poorly written, so it is very hard to be at all interested in what they are doing. The five lead characters are more caricatures than real people and this blunts the otherwise good acting. There are too many plot holes in the movie and once the initial reaction to the surprise twist wears off, you will soon start questioning a lot of the details. The plot holes will start to grow the more you think about it, but perhaps you will still enjoy the initial ride.

Overall, it isn't terrible, but it is not great either. It's a 50% positive film.

The Extras

There are no extras for The Hole while the video and audio quality are mixed. It was a relatively low budget movie and the level of detail isn't great with a lot of shots a little on the soft side. Much of the movie takes place in an underground bunker, which means there's not a lot of colors. The audio is fine with clear dialogue, but it won't put your surround sound speakers to the test.


The film starts in Louisiana in the rain with an older lady digging up a suitcase. After a brief flash of a memory, she lights a candle and says what I assume is a voodoo prayer. (This later causes the suitcase to pulsate.) Meanwhile at a drive-in we meet our cast of teenage soon-to-be-victims: Eden, CeCe, Eric, etc. Ray (Rick Cramer), the local tow-truck driver comes in to pick up his order. Ray is the local bogeyman and many of the townsfolk are scared of him, or at least creeped out by him. Although one of the kids, Tammy, decides to flash him her bra, because that's what kids in these movies do.

Eden and Eric are dating, but that relationship is on the rocks after Eden was accepted to Columbia University. After Eden's at the drive-in while she's riding home, Eric decides to confront her, on the bridge. Ray comes by to ask if there's a problem. There isn't, yet. However, as Ray is leaving, the old lady, whom we learn is CeCe's Grandmother, comes driving along and nearly hits Ray's truck before crashing into the railing on the bridge. Ray is able to get CeCe's grandmother out of her car, but she tells him to get the suitcase as well and when he does, it pops open and he's attacked by numerous snakes and the car tips into the river. No one sees the snake attack, but the bites are clear when his body is retrieved.

Eric is devastated that he might have been the cause of this accident, which killed two people. And while Eden tries to console him, it doesn't really work. When CeCe arrives, she's obviously upset that her Grandmother has died, but becomes more upset when she sees the lady was wearing a voodoo charm. When she learns Ray was attacked by snakes, she freaks out even more. The old lady had a reputation for being a voodoo priestess, and CeCe clearly understands something more is going on.

It isn't long before she's proven right. Whatever attacked Ray has possessed his dead corpse and it isn't long before he's out murdering all of the main characters (and a few of the side ones as well).

Venom is a rather typical teenage slasher with a supernatural bad guy. There have been countless of these made over the years, and unfortunately, this one doesn't stand out in any regard. That's not entirely true. I do like how the big bad guy isn't actually a bad guy, but a good guy who was misunderstood and is the first victim of the evil force that then uses his body to kill its other victims. But that's it as far as real strengths are concerned. The voodoo element is interesting, but it is done better in other similar movies. The characters are not compelling enough to care if they live or die. There's no real mystery here, despite spending too much time trying to build one up. Even as a low expectations Boobs and Blood movie, there's not enough here to please fans of the genre. Some of the action is above average, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement.

The Extras

Extras for Venom include a making of featurette, storyboard to screen comparison, and cast auditions. This is a bargain Blu-ray, so the video and audio are good, but not great. The video quality varies widely from nighttime scenes, which tend to lack any real detail, to daytime scenes, which are surprisingly good, given the price-tag. Unfortunately, most of the movie takes place at night in the dark. The audio is better, but while the dialogue is clear and there's some activity in the surround sound speakers, it's not a great track either.

The Verdict

Of the two movies, I was expecting to like The Hole more than Venom, and I was right. Sadly, I didn't like it as much as I was hoping I would. If you do like either of the movies, then the Blu-ray double-feature is an inexpensive option, but the bargain price is the main selling point.

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Filed under: Video Review, Venom