2020 Reviews 2020s

The Hill and the Hole Runs Itself into the Ground

The Hill and the Hole is one of the most frustrating films I’ve watched in a while. This film had so much potential, but falls flat, straight down a hole into a cold abyss. We almost got two great 60-70s-esque science fiction films in the first half of the year. A film that came out this year that I find myself often thinking back on fondly is The Vast of Night. With The Vast of Night, director Andrew Patterson did nearly everything right. He perfectly captured the feel of old-school sci-fi and crafted a low-stakes film that was mesmerizing. He also found a way to make it feel unique, despite the fact him and co-writer Craig Sanger were clearly paying homage to an era of science fiction.

Directors Bill Darmon and Christopher Ernst begin The Hill and the Hole in a similar fashion. They have a stylized filmic look, the something-is-wrong-here premise, and the camp and quirk to amuse fans of science fiction. Despite having these things going for it, The Hill and the Hole greatly disappoints. I honestly wouldn’t be as upset if it didn’t have those things because then my hopes wouldn’t have been as high.

I’m not sure if it was due to sheer laziness, a busy and overrun shooting schedule that resulted in a rushed finish, or if it always planned to be the way it is, but the film gets worse as it goes on. I cannot assume, nor do I know whether or not it was shot in order, but it certainly feels like it might have been. About three quarters into the film everything becomes nonsensical. Rather than having this be a quirk, it feels more like a cruel joke played on the audience expecting them to find explanations. Mostly, it feels like a cop-out for Darmon as a writer.

I could have been a decent film, but The Hill and the Hole features poor direction that leads to even worse performances and a lousy screenplay that greatly drags it down.


1950s Oldies

Terror is a Man (1959)

I don’t remember how exactly how I stumbled upon Terror is a Man, but I do recall how the story behind the making of it intrigued me. Filipino directors Gerardo de León and Eddie Romero teamed up with American producer Kane Lynn to create one of the first Filipino horror movies: Terror is a Man. This movie was a success and gave birth to the Blood Islandseries and changed the Filipino film industry forever. I’ve loved horror films for a long time, so when I caught wind of a 50s horror like this, I knew I had to check it out. Unfortunately, the background of Terror is a Man is the only interesting part of it.

Maybe I expected too much going into it. I thought that Terror is a Man was going to be a bold horror with plenty of gore, but ultimately it’s derivative of the other campy monster films that were coming out around the 50s and 60s. It’s not as good as The Fly (1958) or Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). It’s fairly generic and the only part that is remotely exciting happens during the final act. However, I was so bored by the rest of the movie that the ending of the film made virtually no impact on me.

This apathy could be attributed to the fact that you can see what’s going to happen from a mile away. A soldier, William Fitzgerald (Richard Derr), washes upon the shore of a small island. He is discovered by Dr. Charles Girard (Francis Lederer), who conducts experiments that many people would not agree with. Obviously, Mr. Fitzgerald is going to be one of those people and spends the whole movie trying to find out more about Dr. Girard’s experiments. It felt like every scene between Fitzgerald and Dr. Girard was the same. They talked about Dr. Girard’s experiments and Dr. Girard danced around specific questions we already knew the answers to in order to extend the film’s runtime. The only difference is that sometimes the filmmakers might change the location of the conversation and the phrasing of the questions

The logistics of Dr. Girard’s experiments aren’t as sophisticated as Fitzgerald makes them out to be. William Fitzgerald is a very frustrating character. He seems to want every minute detail of what’s going on before he makes a move. Even when it seems like Fitzgerald knows everything he keeps prying Dr. Girard for answers, all while trying to steal his wife. Fitzgerald is the type of bland leading man you might expect from a monster movie from the 50s. It doesn’t help that the rest of the characters are about as exciting as a slice of rye bread. Gerardo de León and Eddie Romero could have reduced the damage of their uninteresting characters with a more engaging story, but they are two peas in a pod.

Terror is a Man is a movie with a plot so thin and blandly executed that it probably shouldn’t have been more than 70 minutes.