The Pitch: Stay away from that Trap Door, ‘cos there’s something down there. (In 3D!)
The Review: Nostalgia is a dangerous thing sometimes. For anyone the same age as me, childhood memories are particularly strong around the letter G – Ghostbusters, Goonies and Gremlins being the touchstones. Gremlins especially holds memories, mainly of not being able to see it at the cinema due to the 15 certificate. Joe Dante crafted something wonderful with his playful dissection of small-town America, allowing his critters to run amok through his decidedly Capraesque fantasy. Sadly, nothing since has had quite the same unhinged charm.
It’s good to see him still playing in the family horror sandbox, and my younger self might at first be delighted to realise that the 12A certificate would have almost guaranteed me the entry that Gremlins denied me. What would then follow, however, is the disappointment in what’s been created in this rather slight effort.
The title trumpets the 3D, and the effects are well positioned at the start, with plenty of the kind of demo reel moments that exhibitors can use to market their product. There’s also some gentle scares and a gradual building of tension as the hole is discovered, although there’s also enough sentences referring to The Hole as potential innuendo that wouldn’t be out of place in a Carry On movie.
Then you realise that the 3D show-off moments and the scares, one rattling doorknob aside, are mutually exclusive. You become pained at the anodyne leads and their stubborn refusal to avoid putting themselves in the way of the problem. You become frustrated at the ease of the resolutions to plot strand, over almost before they’re fully explained, and the lack of anything resembling originality. And finally, you will curse the missed opportunity, but deep down hope that one day, Joe Dante can recapture what delighted and scared your younger self in equal measure, all those years ago.
Why see it at the cinema: If you feel the pressing need to get your kids started on scares early, there’s not many other options right now. There is also one priceless silent cameo, but it’s not worth the price of admission, sadly.
Why see it in 3D: If you’ve ever wondered what it looks like for someone to repeatedly shine a bright flashlight straight into your eyes or throw a baseball into your face, now’s your chance.
The Score: 4/10