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Back when Joe Dante first rolled cameras on THE HOLE in late
2008, it was at the forefront of a new wave of 3D production that would soon
become a staple of fantasy/horror filmmaking. Unfortunately, bad luck consigned
the film to unseen status in the U.S. (though it did open overseas) until now,
and Dante spoke to Fango on the eve of its theatrical and disc release.
Opening tomorrow, September 28 at theaters in the Atlanta,
GA area and Los Angeles’ Downtown Independent Theater, followed by DVD, Blu-ray
and VOD release (none in 3D, sadly) October 2 from Big Air Studios, THE HOLE,
scripted by VACANCY’s Mark L. Smith, begins with divorced mom Susan (Teri Polo)
moving into a new suburban house with her sons, teenaged Dane (Chris Massoglia)
and younger Lucas (Nathan Gamble). The boys soon discover a mysterious covered
pit in the basement, and when they open it up, they unleash forces that bring
their deepest fears to life, and that they and neighbor Julie (Haley Bennett)
have to stop. Read on as Dante looks back on THE HOLE story…
FANGORIA: It must be a relief that THE HOLE is finally
getting out there.
JOE DANTE: I’d say that’s a good word, yeah. It is a relief.
FANG: So what exactly took so long?
DANTE: Well, I’m in good company. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and
RED DAWN are two movies shot around the same time as mine that never came out
until now. Our problem was that when I talked [the producers] into shooting THE
HOLE in 3D, which I thought was a good idea at the time, I didn’t reckon on the
fact that there was going to be a whole flood of “fake” 3D movies—pictures that
were shot flat and then converted—about to enter the marketplace at that point.
Back then, there were not that many 3D theaters, so we essentially got frozen
out and couldn’t get booked. Then there was the attempt to find a distributor,
and somebody who was supposed to have some money didn’t have some money, and
all of the sudden it was like, “Oh, look! This is an old movie!” It was very
frustrating, but finally they’ve got a good trailer on it now, and hopefully
this attempt will work.
FANG: As you mentioned, you were among the first to embrace
the new 3D. What made you decide to do this particular film in the process?
DANTE: When I read the script—and I read a lot of horror
scripts that frankly aren’t so hot; it’s pretty difficult to find something
different in this genre right now, since there’s so much repetitive material—I
sparked to the fact that I liked the characters. The story was not dissimilar from
other movies, but it didn’t go where I thought it was gonna go, and I thought
that was great. So when I signed on, I said, “You know, this is a pretty small
movie. It’s got six or seven characters and five locations, one of which is the
basement where we spend a lot of time. This would be really improved if we shot
it in 3D, and I don’t mean the kind where we throw things all the time. I mean
the 3D that immerses you and brings you into the world, and makes you feel like
you’re part of the story and in the basement with these kids.” And they bought
it. They thought it was a great idea. It’s just that in the end, that’s what
actually kept the picture off the screen.
FANG: At the time, there not many films were being shot in
3D. How much research did you have to do to settle on the right process, and
get the 3D looking as good as possible?
DANTE: We looked at all the purveyors of 3D, and there were
some very fancy guys who threw used-car-salesman pitches at us, but we picked a
place called Paradise FX, run by older guys out of a warehouse who loved 3D and
took all their money and put it back into R&D for the process. They do it
because they love it, and they seemed to be a better fit for me than some of
those slick guys. So that’s who we chose, and we won the first Venice Film
Festival award for best 3D movie, because the 3D was really good.
FANG: What were some of the challenges that came with
shooting this particular movie in 3D?
DANTE: Any film is a challenge in 3D, but horror films with
low light levels are particularly difficult. For 3D, you have to overlight your
set anyway, so if you were to walk on, you’d go, “What is this, a variety
show?” But in fact, it’s lit in a way where you could dial it down, and it
looks fine. But you have to compensate for the fact that you’re going to lose
light through the projector lens and the filter, and you’re again with the
glasses. So it’s got to be pretty bright in order for the images to stand out.
There’s a do’s and don’ts of 3D filming, like avoiding
over-the-shoulder shots where the shoulder is in front of you, that kind of
stuff; little things sticking into the corner of the frame that you would never
notice. There’s also the way light reflects off a table or glass differently in
each eye, because of the parallax, so you have to be careful about how you
light things. And when you’re looking at only one image on the monitor, you
have to be cognizant of the fact that there’s another image, so you really need
a 3D stereographer with you while you shoot in order to see what it’ll look
like. You can’t just stab a guess at them and try to put them together after
you finish shooting.
FANG: Looking at THE HOLE in comparison to your other films,
it seems the most reminiscent of GREMLINS in terms of a family coming together
to battle supernatural forces. Was that something you were cognizant of when
you took on the project?
DANTE: Not on that level. I was cognizant of the fact that
I, for some reason, am attracted to movies with small things that bite your
ankles in them—which makes this, what, GREMLINS 5? I mean, if SMALL SOLDIERS is
GREMLINS 3, and LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION is GREMLINS 4, then THE HOLE is
GREMLINS 5, because they all had small creatures and I had to be careful how I
framed the shots; otherwise, you wouldn’t see them.
FANG: When it was announced that you were doing a 3D horror
film, some people no doubt expected all sorts of gruesome stuff to fly off the
screen, but THE HOLE is actually kind of family-friendly. Was that a conscious
decision on your part?
DANTE: It really was, because horror movies where stomach
parts fly at you are a dime a dozen. It’s not hard to do that kind of thing.
What I was missing was the kind of picture you could take your kids to and
watch it with them, and when they come out, they’re not scarred for life. It’s
retro in the sense that it’s very much an ’80s movie, and I think the success
of a picture like SUPER 8 is a testament to the fact that there’s an audience
out there who still want to see the kinds of pictures we were doing in the
FANG: Can you talk a bit about how you cast the film’s
DANTE: Casting kids is always difficult, because they come
in waves. I remember when we were casting EXPLORERS, it was very difficult
finding good young actors because there was a wave of sort of Disney-fied cute
kids to choose from, and you don’t want that. You want them to be real. In this
case, we were lucky enough to find kids who actually behaved like real kids. I
mean, they’re good actors, but they’re not so Method-y and preprepared that
what you get is a canned performance. They really are in the moment. For the
two leads, we read boys and girls together to see where the chemistry was, and
Chris and Haley happened to read together, and from the first day, they just
seemed to hit it off. And Nathan is a very, very talented kid. Of course, he’s
somewhat older now than when he did this picture, but he’s a terrific actor and
he’s got all the right instincts, and if he wants to, he’s going to go far.
FANG: He had done THE MIST and THE DARK KNIGHT at that
point; was that an advantage for him coming into this movie and dealing with
the FX and 3D challenges?
DANTE: I don’t know if he learned it from those movies or if
he just had it innately, but not since I worked with [EXPLORERS’] Ethan Hawke
have I found a kid who just took to it, and was so natural and immersed in the
world of acting and how to do it without looking like he’s in a false setting.
FANG: You cast Bruce Dern, with whom you’d previously worked
on THE ’BURBS, SMALL SOLDIERS and CSI: NY, as local eccentric Creepy Carl. Did
he immediately come to mind for that role?
DANTE: Yeah, with all the actors I like, I always look for
parts in scripts when I’m reading them. It really stuck out to me that this
would be a great part for Bruce. He’s a consummate professional, and a riot to
have around. He can play movie or sports trivia games with you; he knows what
Jesse Lasky ate for breakfast. He’s a hell of a lot of fun and a really good
FANG: That is Dick Miller as the pizza delivery guy, right?
DANTE: Yes, that’s Dick. He came out of semi-retirement to
do me a favor—which, if we had shot the entire picture in Vancouver, we
wouldn’t have been able to do, because you can’t bring very many actors from
outside of Canada if you do a picture there and want to get the tax credit.
Luckily, I was able to convince the producers that it was too cold to shoot the
exteriors up there—because it really was—so we shot them down here [in LA], and
that way Dick was able to be in the picture.
FANG: Anything else you’d like to say about THE HOLE?
DANTE: People should get their butts out of their seats and
go see it! And I have to commend you on the longevity and rebirth of FANGORIA.
You’re just as vital now as you were in the ’80s.
FANG: As are you, Mr. Dante!
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