Title: The Hole
Summary: Four teenagers at a British private school secretly uncover and explore the depths of a sealed underground hole created decades ago as a possible bomb shelter.
[Dove: Yeah, no, sorry imdb, but that makes it sound like a caving adventure. What happens is four teenagers are locked in the bunker, with no means of escape, and the film explores what put them there and what happened in the hole.]
Note 1: In England, public school means publicly funded, e.g., the parents of the students, the public, pay for its running costs. I know this means the opposite in America. [Wing: Americans, it’s a private boarding school. It’s great.]
Note 2: I’m trying to recap the story as it unfolds, and if you’ve seen this you’ll know that what you see in one scene can well be contradicted in another. So my comments take the scene at face value. I’ll loop back to anything on the contradicting scene, rather than “spoiling” what comes next. [Wing: Smart plan! And so is the one below.]
Note 3: I won’t mention the contents of the book. However, when I recap the book, I will definitely mention the contents of the film.
Just FYI, this is one of my favourite movies. Please note the difference between “favourite” and “best”. If you want my “best” movie, it’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Stand By Me. This falls firmly in the guilty pleasure category.
It was one of the first movies Raven and I watched when we moved in together. It was so early on in our relationship that we didn’t have a TV licence (we were waiting for payday) and so we were very naughty by watching it.
Also, I will be recapping the book. If you’ve always wanted to read the book but never got around to it, go buy the book now. The book is a very different entity to the movie, and it really should be read if you enjoy this story or any variation of it.
Also, I did screen caps of this entire movie for the cap_it community at LiveJournal. Who knew that 12 years later, it would save me a task when I came to recap the movie? [Wing: I remember people frantically asking you to screen cap Kiera Knightley’s tits, and you refusing, like the A+ person you are.]
[Wing: I love this movie so much. Dove introduced me to it, and the book, as she does many things, and I adore it to this day.]
We open with shots of a filthy and bedraggled teenage girl – Liz, played by Thora Birch – walking down an empty country lane littered with missing posters, showing Mike, Geoff and Frankie. For some reason they’re working really hard to keep Liz’s full face off camera for the moment, which makes no sense, since she’s going to be up front and centre for the whole of the movie.
Also, I’m not sure why the opening frames have such a post-apocalyptic vibe. Four teens went missing, it’s not a zombie uprising. There are flyers everywhere. I guess since I left school, they dropped the annual “Keep Britain Tidy” campaign. (As a primary school kid, you got to make an inspirational poster. Not sure what they did at secondary school, I was rarely there, and when I was I didn’t pay much attention.)
Liz enters a school, and runs past the wall of achievement – showing a photo of a much cleaner Liz holding a silver cup – and finally reaches the payphones. She dials 999, lets out an ear-piercing scream when asked for details by the operator, and then curls up on the floor to cry.
Then we get our credits scene, showing the emergency services rushing to the fictitious Braebourne School, hotly followed by the press, who cover that the missing teenagers have been found. To show who the desired audience is, there is an American reporter there, who states that the school fees are over $30,000 per year. (Yes, I know one of the kids is American, and the son of a rock star, don’t interrupt my righteous anger with your logic and your facts.) She confirms that Michael Steel, son of rock guitarist Stevie Steel (Steve Tyler?) was one of the missing.
[Wing: Americans simply cannot watch anything without at least one American character in it. Ah, Americans.]
We get a quick look at “The Hole” in its crime scene setup, then back to Liz, still dirty, lying on a hospital table. I’m just gonna get through this quickly, the technicians approach with a rape kit. They actually cut the line, “This is a rape kit.” I think that was wise. As they approach, Liz screams.
Note: Liz screams but does not open her mouth. I’ll come back to that.
Then we cut to a very calm scene of Liz sitting in a private hospital (psychiatric? Rehab?) room alone. I think this must be a catch-all kind of private facility, for psychiatric and rehab patients to convalesce, because it really doesn’t seem like a regular hospital. But for the sake of brevity, I’ll call it a hospital throughout.
She has a flashback to Geoff’s voice, and a piece of pink plastic crawling in maggots, and Liz screaming “No! Stop!” as the camera pans away from her. For some reason, Geoff says “He’s going to kill us,” which threw me, because I’m not sure he ever says that line. Even if he doesn’t, it does make sense. Having watched it from beginning to end very carefully, no, he doesn’t say that at all in this movie.
Enter Dr Philippa Horwood, played by Embeth Davidz, who you may remember as that really annoying #GhostUnlivesMatter character from Thirteen Ghosts. (Seriously, how can you respect yourself when you’re campaigning for the humane treatment of dead white murderers?) [Wing: Dying.] [Dove: I will be recapping Thirteen Ghosts at a later date.]
Philippa shows her to a room where they can talk. Liz’s mouth is firmly shut until she’s investigated where each door leads off the room and leaves the doors open. Philippa turns her back on Liz to open a window, and then sets up a video camera to record each of their sessions.
At this point, Liz now begins to speak. She says she doesn’t want to go on lithium or Prozac, she’s not crazy, her mum just won’t listen to her. Philippa says she’ll listen. She’s got a very soft tone, which makes me want to slap her. But maybe I’m not being fair, I really did dislike her in Thirteen Ghosts.
They do a breathing exercise until Liz is ready to tell her story.
She explains that in Braebourne, you have to be thin and pretty otherwise you’re dust (ah, Liz, that’s the whole world, not just your school). We cut to Frankie, the queen bee, walking down the hall with two friends (who, by the way, can’t act at all). On the commentary, the director says he wanted it to look like Clueless. And I’ve got to be honest, it’s a swing and a miss, because Clueless is a lot of things, but it’s not set at an English public school, in a building that is hundreds of years old, where everyone is wearing an ugly school uniform (which is actually relatively attractive if compared to my school uniform). [Wing: Walking down the hall like that is sort of a Clueless visual nod, I’ll give the director that. I mean, it’s also a standard popular girl walk in media, and Mean Girls even poked a bit of fun at it, but I can sort of see a Clueless nod. Plus, the Clueless fashion sense (at least RE plaid skirts, etc.) is in part inspired by the strange obsession we have with school uniforms, but making them sexy.] [Dove: In Hollywood’s defence re the sexy uniforms, we all did that. My uniform was particularly ghastly, but still everyone did their best, pairing it with platform shoes, rolling the skirt up, and leaving our top button undone to show off our wonderbra-enhanced cleave.]
She mentions her best friend, Martyn, whose philosophy is “take everything you can from them, their greed makes them easy to control”. This actually sounds like the bollocks a teenager would spout while trying to sound all anarchist and shit. But it doesn’t make sense. This is not Gossip Girl, these kids don’t own fashion lines and bars, they’re just spoilt brats with mobile phones and expensive wardrobes. [Wing: I’d say someone read Catcher in the Rye and took it too much to heart, but I’m not sure if that’s the same sort of staple in England as it is here. Also: I hate it.] [Dove: After reading in every interview with every single actor that ever acted that Catcher in the Rye “like, changed my life”, I bought a copy, read it, and judged them hard. I’m sorry, that book is massively overrated.]
Frankie announces to the girls she’s with that Mike Steel just became single. They shriek “OH MAH GAWD!” and that’s the only line they have. And they suck at it.
Next we’re on the rugby field, and Mike is smoking a cigarette while in rugger gear. Liz is watching adoringly while Martyn points out that Mike is nothing special. He also reveals that Mike is single, having finished with his supermodel girlfriend, Amber and now suddenly everyone’s “a blonde with cherry lipgloss“. Liz gets all a-flutter, and Martyn tries to convince her that she loves him, not Mike.
Martyn: But he’s just a guy like me. You wouldn’t think he was so perfect if you knew him. He shits and farts like the rest of us. He’s just a fuck of a lot less interesting!
Liz: I can’t help it. It’s an egg thing. When I look at Mike, I see the face of an angel… and the soul of a poet. I need him.
Martyn: No, no, no, no, no – you love me! It’s a Martyn Taylor fact. Has there been a day in the last five years that we haven’t talked?
Liz: But you’re more like a gay friend than a boyfriend.
Martyn: But I’m not gay!
Jogging Rugby Players: Yeah, right!
Ah 2001, when gay was an acceptable punchline. Earlier Martyn referred to Mike’s relationship with his best friend, Geoff, as “homoerotic”, which Liz then said was “disgusting”.
Also, has anyone ever referred to anything as an “egg thing” other than in the context of food? “Ooh, can you do that egg thing for breakfast?”
[Wing: I’ve always taken it as a weird way to say a chemistry thing, or a survival of the species thing. I see him and my ovaries want to help make his babies or some such shit. But it’s a weird way to put it even for that.]
We scoot over to Mike and Geoff’s dorm room. Mike is played by Desmond Harrington, before he had his apparent growth spurt when he shot up to nine feet tall and dropped as much weight as a human can without snapping, as seen in Dexter. Geoff is played by Laurence Fox, and wow, his wiki page is just filled with stuff I didn’t know, such as he’s from Leeds (*pounds chest and spits out the word Leeds*) and was married to Billie Piper.
[Note from the future: At the time of writing this recap, I had no idea what a colossal prick Laurence Fox is. Now he trends almost weekly for his toxic, racist, classist, COVID-denying, right-wing, privileged white boy bullshit and is absolutely a cunt of the highest order. Any mentions of enjoying his performance in this movie come from a happier time, before I was aware of what an absolute shitshow this man is.]
Mike says he’s going to call a bunch of “grateful exes” and spend the school holiday getting laid. Geoff points out that the geography school trip is going to get in the way, even if he does avoid the trip, the tabloids will be all over him because of his split with Amber. So basically, whether Mike likes it or not, he’s having a “wet weekend in Wales”. [Wing: I mean, that could still be a weekend getting laid. I’m just saying. It sounds like it, at least. Also, if they’re on school holiday, why are they going on a school trip at the same time?] [Dove: Possibly attendance is mandatory, so all classes end on, let’s say, Tuesday, because Wednesday to Friday are the camping trip, but school officially ends on Friday? The book has the same setup and is just as unclear.] Since neither of them want to go, Geoff brings up the Frankie got out of it by seeing Martyn Taylor.
Then we cut to Frankie, who’s lounging on a bed in a frankly hideous pink and orange filmy nightie thing, while her non-acting BFFs dance on the bed in their blue lingerie. I really just want to throw rocks at them.
Liz (wearing a very matronly ankle-length nightie that Elizabeth Wakefield would approve of) knocks on the door and asks Frankie for help with her hair, it’s messed up. One of her non-acting roommates ask if Frankie’s mobile gave her a brain tumour, and Frankie snaps back that her coursework doesn’t write itself.
It turns out that Liz tried to bleach her hair using chemicals from the lab and it’s all dry. Frankie gives her a deep conditioner, and the advice that blonde hair won’t help her get Mike. Also, Frankie says he’s not that wonderful. If that’s the case, why was Mike being single such an OMG moment earlier? *raises a single eyebrow*
The next day, Liz shows off her newly blonde hair, but feels that everyone is laughing at her and runs back to her room to…
… dye her hair back to red. Did she also find those chemicals in the lab? Liz, your story is full of holes, and so far we’re only on hair dye.
I also had this hair colour for years. I have no idea why I was so invested in it. I look back at the pictures and cringe. Years, people. We’re talking ages 16-28. Urgh. [Wing: I intentionally dye my hair darker because I am a natural blonde and I hate the way people still don’t take blondes seriously, but at least in the career I chose, the dark hair helped me progress. Which is shit, but sometimes we do what we gotta do.]
Liz storms into Martyn’s room, where he has two screens up – with two keyboards??? – because he’s clever. One screen is showing Outlook with a dos window overlay, the other is showing… what is that? A render? A paused game? Why does he have two keyboards? I have two screens, but set up to one PC. I really can’t see the benefit of having two keyboards. Unless that’s two separate PCs, but I can’t see the benefit of that either. Martyn, if you’re so clever, what’s going on with your computer setup? [Wing: I love when set designers don’t do enough research and just throw things together. Ah, smart kids have lots of screens, I bet they have lots of computers too.] [Dove: *shakes head* At Dodge & Burrow, the joke of a law firm I worked for a very long time ago, all of management were given second screens to help them manage. Cue 15 morons spending the entire day going “I’VE LOST MY MOUSE POINTER” and “OMG, I CAN SCROLL REALLY FAR TO THE SIDE!”]
Liz, poster child for self-indulgent characters, moans to Martyn that she loves Mike and he doesn’t even know she exists, and Martyn couldn’t possibly understand because he’s never been in love. Martyn deep breathes past that one, and then says he can help her.
Mike, Geoff and Frankie meet with Martyn in a stairwell, where Martyn announces that he’s adding one to the group of geography trip avoiders. He’s very self-important, calling it a “need-to-know operation”, and everyone sniggers at the silly nerd. [Wing: It is at this point in the movie that I love Martyn and want him to go find himself a crush who is actually worth his time.]
Minor montage. Liz wears sensible clothes and packs a gigantic bag with all sorts of useful things, like camping plates, a gas stove, etc., and narrates that the school and the parents always believed each other, so as long as the school thinks the kids are with their parents and vice-versa, they were safe. Then there’s a black and white screen, which shows the kids names being deleted, and pulls back to show Marty typing at his keyboard (the one on the left). METAPHOR.
Next we’re outside the titular hole, a war bunker escape hatch. Liz rocks up looking like she’s prepared for several weeks of camping and hiking, Geoff has a rucksack, Frankie has a wheeled suitcase, and Mike has a blue blanket. Liz actually rattles as she walks because she’s got pans and lamps hanging off her super-duper rucksack of resourcefulness. The boys find this funny. (As did Thora Birch. She and the director kept adding things to the rucksack before shooting.) [Wing: Okay, that bit of behind-the-scenes trivia makes me giggle.]
Once they have moved on from mocking Liz, the boys turn on Martyn, who is insufferably smug throughout. Geoff asks what they’re doing in the middle of the woods, and Martyn says he can’t see the woods from the trees. After he’s threatened with violence (which he’s indifferent to), he shows them the bunker.
The very cool shot of them looking in the bunker with the sun behind them was pure accident. And it looks awesome.
Oddly, the cool popular kids are utterly excited by how cool the bunker is. Now there’s a chance they would be mildly interested – Geoff, at least, I’d say, because I can see him enjoying a bit of urban exploring and possibly having a YouTube channel – but back in 2001, it doesn’t really ring true that they’re this blown away by how awesome old sinks and lots of dust are. Especially since one of those people is Frankie, who would be horrified by how dark, disgusting and dirty everything is. [Wing: Frankie I agree, she would never be excited. I can see the others still being into urban exploration even before they’d become YouTube sensations.] [Dove: I don’t know, if you think about all of the characterisations here, I can only really see Geoff going for it. Everyone else would be “too cool”.]
They all climb in (with a minor shot of the ladder wobbling), Liz is the last in. Martyn says he hopes she enjoys the Mike Steel experience. Immediately the social walls come down. Geoff helps everyone in with their luggage, the boys run around playing shoot ‘em up, using their torches as weapons, and the girls smile indulgently, aren’t boys silly.
They set up their bed areas: Frankie has an inflatable pink plastic sofa, complete with inflatable pillows containing pink feathers; [Wing: I love Frankie.] Liz has the whole camping thing going on, including a double sleeping bag (can’t blame a girl for hoping); Geoff’s motif is army (and we later find he’s done army cadets), not as all-encompassing as Liz’s provisions, but suitable; and Mike has a blanket and some chewing gum.
Geoff has to borrow Liz’s camping stove and a pan because he didn’t bring one. He’s making pasta, he has a certain kind that cooks faster. He offers some to Mike, who says he doesn’t want pasta. Liz is making sausages. She even has ketchup. Mike sits down next to her and links his arm through hers because they’re having dinner of sausages together. Frankie has fibre pills to suppress hunger.
That evening, they light the hole with loads of artfully arranged candles, get into their PJs, and tell ghost stories. Frankie tries to tell the hook man legend, passing it off as actually happening to her friends Bob and Sally (for years these have been my go-to names when making examples at work, unfortunately, we actually do have a Bob and two Sallys in my team now). When everyone has suitably mocked her for trying to pass off an urban legend as real, Geoff says he’s got a real scary story for them.
Geoff: Something happens to Martyn. He doesn’t come back for us.
[Wing: Well, Geoff clearly wins that round. He’d also be good at one-line horror stories when they go around social media.]
Frankie berates him for jinxing them, it’ll make it happen. Geoff scoffs at that idea, and Frankie turns to Liz for backup, Liz says she’s a scientist, she doesn’t believe in jinxes. Mike says he’s a scientologist, and he’s with Liz. Wow, scientology has been a punchline for a long time.
At this point, Liz is pulled back to present day by Philippa, who doesn’t want all this establishing bullshit. [Wing: Fuck you, Philippa, we want the establishing bullshit. Also, I’m pretty sure it’s a part of your job to listen to it all just in case there are important details.] What happened on the third day when Martyn was supposed to come back? Liz says that he didn’t come back.
And back to the hole, where everyone is packed up and ready to go, and Martyn does not arrive. Frankie immediately goes to worst case scenario – what if he’s in a coma or dead?
Mike offers to call him (Nokia 3310 spotted), but there’s no reception in the bunker, not even by the door. In 2001 this is not unfeasible, especially in a rural area with historic buildings. Around that age, I used to belong to a social group, and we all had phones on different networks, so that we were basically covered. If Bob wasn’t available with his Orange network phone, then we didn’t go to The Vine, that kind of thing. [Wing: I think it might even be feasible today, even at the door of the bunker. That’d be hard to get a signal through.]
Also, in 2018, if I stand in my kitchen, my phone gets no reception. And I live in a city centre.
Tempers fray quite quickly after that, and we have a quick montage of everyone screaming “help!” towards the door, Geoff thumping it with a metal bar, everyone arguing amongst themselves, the boys trying all other doors, and Frankie curled up in a corner crying.
Liz wakes up in the night to see a shadow cross the tiny pane of glass in the door.
The next morning they discuss their situation. Mike realises that by now people have realised they didn’t go to Wales, which means they have a three-day head start. Given that at least three of them (unknown about Liz) are very wealthy, this puts them pretty much anywhere on the globe. They’re being held to ransom by Martyn, and won’t get out until he says so.
Frankie: But why? I mean why would he do this to us? We’re his friends!
Mike: Are we? Is he really your friend, Frankie? I know he’s not mine. Think about it – I don’t know a thing about Martyn.
Again, Philippa pulls her back to now for no good reason, and Liz says “He didn’t come back.”
Over at the police station, Detective Tom Howard says, “You cracked it! I knew you would.” Dude, we’re… 29 minutes in, she cracked it about 27 minutes ago. And it wasn’t so much that she cracked it, she just told Liz to breathe and Liz immediately told her what happened. I feel you’re over-selling Philippa’s talents.
Philippa gives a quick overview of the psychological profile of Martyn. Oh, and behind her are pictures of the other kids. Autopsy pictures. Frankie is the most prominent.
Back at the hospital, Liz asks Philippa whether Martyn will be locked up. She says she assumes so, Liz says “Good. Let’s see how he likes it.”
Back down in the hole, things are getting moderately grim. There are maggots crawling on the dirty pans and plates. Dudes, just wash up after yourselves. You’d think Liz, with all of her resources, would channel her inner Anne Kirrin and tidy up after them. [Wing: I love you for that reference.]
Liz flashes the light around the room and checks everyone’s sleeping positions. And this, this I like. I’ll come back to it.
Mike is awake and asks if he can hop in her sleeping bag and they can talk. It’s all very G-rated, they lie neatly on their backs, not touching. Liz says she thinks Martyn is watching them, checking up on them. Liz confesses that Martyn’s locked them in to teach her a lesson, because she likes Mike, and Martyn likes her. As far as Liz can work out, they’re going to have to stay down there until he’s right, that Liz hates Mike.
Mike then wonders how he knows that they don’t hate each other. This leads to them finding bugs planted all over the bunker.
They hatch a scheme to prove Martyn right, that Liz can’t hang with the cool kids.
They wake up the others, show them the bugs, and then have a staged argument, where Frankie pretends to be very sick, by making retching noises and pouring water from pan to pan, and they all gang up on Liz saying it’s her fault because Martyn’s her best friend, while Liz holds up cue cards for them. The fight is painfully staged and everyone has to smother giggles. It culminates in Mike randomly calling her a cum-bag. The original line was cum-bucket, but that would have given the movie an NC-17 rating. I’m glad that distinction made a woman filled with cum a lot less offensive and totally accessible to the PG-13 audience. [Wing: I am very confused by the line drawn there.]
I mean, this film has an underage Kiera Knightly’s bare breasts, various sex scenes, a sociopath who locked up a bunch of kids to fulfil their own romantic fantasy, violent deaths, and some pretty gruesome scenes, but it’s good to know that the word “cum-bucket” was where the MPAA drew the line. (Just want to point out, I have no beef with nudity in movies, my point is that the MPAA usually does.)
The next morning, the door is opened, and they climb out and Mike says that she saved them all. There’s a big tearful hug and everything is excellent.
Except, if that’s the case, where are the rest of the kids in the present day, and why did I see an autopsy photo of Geoff and Frankie behind Philippa in the police station scene?
Philippa is suitably troubled by this narrative. See, I told Detective Tom to hold off on the showers of praise. She calls Tom to say that Liz is delusional about the outcome, and he says no worries, he’ll get a confession out of Martyn instead, how crazy can she be? At this point, Philippa looks back to the hospital and sees Liz grinning like a Stepford wife and waving at her.
There was supposed to be a deleted scene in here, where Philippa accidentally left the camera running and the tape showed Liz losing that smile as she turned away from the window and calling Philippa a “stupid cunt”, but apparently it didn’t play well.
I’ll give them this, the things they cut were already really obvious and leaving them in would have made this film worse.
Over at the police station, Martyn is being interrogated about why he locked up a bunch of kids. Martyn maintains that he didn’t do it, and gives a very biting “as usual” speech.
[Wing: His smug superiority is strangely attractive.] [Dove: I maintain he’d have made a perfect Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets.]
This is completely undercut by the police officer telling him that Liz has told them everything, which sends Martyn’s smug superiority crashing down. He comes down off his high horse and says he knew Liz was “fucked in the head” but he didn’t think she was that vicious. They do know that Liz hates him, right?
Philippa is driving Liz back home, and Philippa says Liz can contact her whenever she needs. Well, gosh, that was a pointless scene.
Back with Martyn, he informs them that they know nothing (Jon Snow). Liz is A-list, queen of the bitches and BFFs with Frankie.
Martyn: They’re practically the same person! Boring, vain, shallow enough to paddle in.
I don’t know how this can be a massive revelation to the cops, surely they would have spoken to school friends and teachers when this was just a missing persons case? I will admit, a lot of this plot only works if you’re clinging to the idiot ball like it’s a life preserver in the stormy seas of reality.
[Wing: God, here we go with my favourite thing about this movie, which is the different stories we get and how the details change in similar scenes. I love this so damn much.]
We get another flashback, again in Frankie’s room, except this time she, Frankie and the non-acting friends, are hanging out the window, smoking and sharing a bottle of booze. Frankie gets the call on her mobile again announcing Mike’s new single status, and they quickly plot how Liz can snag him.
They initially consider a few days at the beach, but then remember the “S&M dungeon Martyn tried to take you [Liz] to.“ and arrange a private party for the four of them.
Frankie is sent off to ask Geoff. For no particular reason she asks him while he’s showering after rugby, and tells him it only works if he brings Mike. Geoff then sets to work on Mike because he’s desperate to bang Frankie. After much pressure, Mike reluctantly caves.
Detective Tom asks what time Martyn locked them in. For fuck’s sake, you morons, pay attention. It might be worth at least considering his story. Especially because pretty much any kid at school can give you the names of the A-listers of their class. In primary school it was Zoe and Ian, in my secondary school it was Becky.
Martyn asks them to dredge up a scrap of evidence, and gets silence as an answer.
We then cut to Tom on the phone to Philippa, insisting that he talk to Liz to ask what the truth is because he literally has no evidence against Martyn and has to release him in twelve hours.
Look, presh, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but Liz gave you a story that either:
- She believes whole-heartedly because the actual truth is too hard to comprehend, and psychologically unravelling her probably won’t do your quest for truth any favours, not to mention her mental state; or
- She has completely fabricated for reasons that make perfect sense to her.
Either way, what you have, you fucking muppet, is a girl who is very attached to the story she already told. Why not ask her teachers, school friends or… dare I say it, mother: Was Liz Frankie’s roommate? Were they best friends? Who is the more truthful out of Martyn and Liz? Who is the more likely to pull this? I know it’s not evidence, just hearsay, but you might get a better picture if you had more than one fucking witness, you absolute waste of space. Liz and Frankie’s friendship would at least undermine Liz’s “I’m a friendless underdog” narrative, so that you had a better idea of which story to pick holes in.
Also, Philippa, you’re supposed to have some kind of qualification in whatever it is you do. If you’re the best they’ve got (remember: money) to unravel a traumatised girl’s confused memories of the situation, why are you taking literally everything at face value and being baffled by her avoidance of the truth? I’m pretty certain if you locked up a girl for 18 days, no matter what her backstory was going in, she would like to avoid discussing some moments of those 18 days. And you’re just sat there with an “Oh, I find this very surprising” look on your face when she gives an alternate narrative where everyone lives yay.
Just resign, both of you.
Tom grudgingly lets Philippa take lead on this, so she takes Liz out for ice cream. She asks subtle questions such as: Did Martyn keep a diary listing all of his dastardly deeds? Does he have a hiding place where he might stash evidence we could use against him? Do you think he ever confessed on video for a time such as this? Oh, Philippa, Tom was so right to trust you. With questions like that, Liz will never realise that Martyn will go free, and she certainly won’t freak out because–
Oh, how strange. Liz just threw a tantrum and ran out of the café, stating that Martyn will be coming after her now.
Gosh, and Philippa was so reassuring and subtle in her questioning.
Liz stomps off and walks through an underpass. I’m not really sure why there’s a city-style underpass here, given that so far we’ve been surrounded by epic countryside. See, the thing is, when you get rural, there’s not a whole lot of traffic, ergo, no need for an underpass.
Well, the reason is, plot. Liz needs to be in a creepy place to hallucinate Mike walking past her. And we’re just not going to buy it if she’s walking down a babbling brook or crossing a picturesque bridge, surrounded by trees and open skies.
We see Liz at home, on her balcony smoking a cigarette and wearing far more fashionable clothes than flashback Liz wore. She flicks through magazines, but can’t seem to settle until she lies down for a flashback.
Back in the bunker, which has been re-lit and re-dressed to make it smaller and darker, the four are having a party. Everyone is dressed far more fashionably/provocatively than in the original flashback, the booze is a-flowing and weed and pills are making the rounds too.
So much for ghost stories by candlelight.
Things take a turn when Mike asks Frankie who she’s going to bang first, him or Geoff. It gets a bit threesomey, as they throw her down on a bunk and start undressing her.
Before things can completely progress, Liz walks up and bounces Mike’s head off a wall, killing the mood. Not to save her friend, but because she’s jealous. Frankie plays it as if Liz has saved her, trying to stop the atmosphere, but it’s done, Mike thinks she’s an asshole.
Also, Frankie says that she and Mike hooked up when they were thirteen, and it wasn’t that good. Which is a callback to Good!Flashback Frankie advising Liz that Mike wasn’t all that wonderful.
Oh, and Frankie flashes her boobs at Mike before she walks off.
That night, Geoff tries to hop into bed with Frankie, she shrieks and wakes everyone up. A light goes on, and Liz flaps back her sleeping back to invite Mike to share her bed. He looks incredulous and tells her to go to sleep. They then have to listen to Frankie and Geoff shag.
Present day Liz throws some magazines across the room, and we have a voiceover from Tom, who says that Liz must have spent days picking the lock to the door, but she beat Martyn, and he’s going to beat him too. Uh, if she was picking the lock, wouldn’t there be scratches all around as she learned how to do it? No version of Liz I’ve seen so far gives any indication that they can pick locks.
Tom says it must be Martyn because he has an anarchist website talking about how to disrupt the stock index, air traffic and the internet itself. Sure, plenty of criminals (usually of the spree killing variety) do have social media posts which, with hindsight, were probably telling. I’m just not sure someone who wanted to commit the perfect crime would flag themselves by spouting off on how to disrupt the world.
[Wing: There’s also a big difference between wanting to disrupt the world and locking four kids inside a bunker without asking for some sort of ransom.]
The narrative they’re trying to sell is that Martyn made four kids vanish, because the school and the parents always believe each other. I guess his “plan” was to leave them to rot, your basic bury them alive, and nobody would ever know. The book emphasises this much further, but as I said, I’m not going to discuss the book here.
To use a real-world example, Klebold and Harris did have websites along these lines, but they wanted to go down in history, to change the world, to do something big and explosive that nobody would ever forget. This is not Martyn’s MO.
Philippa says that he’s not angry enough to have done it. What? *laughs* No, seriously, what? So… you would think that someone getting more caught – someone earlier described as cold and sociopathic – for doing the crime would be more angry than someone falsely accused of the crime?
Just shut up. You’re embarrassing people who work in your profession.
Philippa heads over to the Hole for her first visit. She meets a woman I guess is some kind of forensics expert? I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her White Coat. Philippa asks what the kids were doing in the hole, White Coat says they were having a good time – plenty of booze, party lights, etc.
Nobody wants to comment on how that contradicts Liz’s narrative? No?
Another flashback, Mike wants to leave (it’s day 2), because he doesn’t want to listen to Geoff and Frankie bang all weekend (also, they’re wearing each other’s clothes, it’s especially cute when you see Geoff in that horrible pink/orange filmy robe/nightie thing).
Liz says she’s going too, without Mike she’s a major gooseberry. Before they climb the ladder, Liz suggests they get a pizza before they get home. Mike politely declines. Liz tries again, and finally he has to say that he wants to see if he and Amber have another chance, and Liz snaps that Amber humiliated him. He tells her to fuck off, and she doesn’t know anything about it.
Liz heads up the ladder, and it’s at this point Liz announces she can’t open the door. Mike gets up there and he can’t either. There’s a quick argument over who came in last, how hard it slammed shut, etc., before they get to the anger stage, where everyone actually does blame Liz, unlike the last flashback.
Liz hides herself in a room off the bathroom, while the other three inspect the bunker for other exits.
Present day Liz then hallucinates Mike walking past again.
Philippa and White Coat get out of the Hole, and Philippa is close to vomming. White Coat says it’s a nightmare for forensics, there’s so much dirt and hair down there it would take six months to sift through it. There were no bugs, they must have mistook the vents for listening devices. (Again, this should flatten Liz’s narrative that Martyn was listening.) Oh, and they still have nothing tying Martyn to the scene.
Which is actually funny because one of the short flashbacks from Liz’s point of view (so not told to someone) showed Martyn opening the door of the bunker and Liz nodding approvingly. I didn’t mention it because it didn’t really move things along. But that’s the one thing we know Martyn did, and the next four kids wiped his fingerprints away!
Back at home, Liz goes to the kitchen and helps herself to a biscuit. She grabs a digestive biscuit (so called because they allegedly reduced farting. This is a lie.), [Wing: OH MY GOD, THAT EXPLAINS IT. I’ve wondered for years, but never bothered to look it up.] but Thora Birch did not want to eat it, so she just appraises both sides of it, then sniffs it, like she’s a weird fucking alien. Nobody in the history of the universe has sniffed a digestive.
Martyn appears at her kitchen window then pounds on the front door, bellowing “OPEN THE DOOR!”
She runs down to a canal/river/something crossing/lock. He catches up with her and yells that he betrayed her. She says sorry, but she knew they’d let him go. He shakes her, and then we cut to Philippa driving to Liz’s house.
She finds Liz wrapped in a duvet, weeping that she just wants to remember, and she keeps seeing Frankie everywhere.
Philippa drives off with Liz, who says she wants to go back to the Hole, to see it and it will help her remember. And yeah, Philippa, after saying no once, agrees.
Then we cut to the police officer who interrogated Martyn telling Tom that Liz’s mum has called, saying Philippa has kidnapped her daughter, and she’ll set the tabloids on them if they don’t get her back. Also, she has some info about Martyn Taylor…
And then we cut back to Philippa and Liz. Liz is positively perky about getting back to the hole. Philippa is starting to get fed up with Liz’s feigned crazy. As am I.
Liz: We weren’t locked in from the outside.
That’s why Liz was screaming with her mouth closed earlier. The director’s commentary reveals the key was in her mouth the whole time. She kept it in there until her first meeting with Philippa, and when she investigated the other rooms, opening doors and such like, she used that moment to take it out and put it in her pocket. I have no idea why she didn’t put it in her pocket the moment she was alone, but y’know, it’s still a fact from the director’s commentary.
We replay her flashback from earlier, when they realise they’re locked in, and this time we see that Liz has gone to the separate room so she can hide the key in her shoe, not because she’s upset that everyone’s yelling at her.
Geoff then announces that the water’s gone off. They pool their stash, and it’s pretty low. And Geoff gives a pretty chilling speech.
Geoff: After you start to feel thirsty, you find yourself feeling impatient, maybe even a little sick. And your pulse starts to go up, then there’s the headaches, dizziness… when it gets bad, your vision will blur and you’ll find it hard to walk and talk. Your tongue swells up, your skin shrivels, you twitch, you go deaf and then you die.
They have about four days from when they run out of water and this is where we find out Geoff was in army cadets, hence is army-style in the fake flashback.
Liz starts crying, and everyone comforts her, even Mike musters up some kind words. Again from the director’s commentary, there was a strong chance she would have unlocked the door at that point, with them all facing death and no hope with Mike, but his kindness to her then doomed them all. It gave Liz hope and she stuck to her plan. [Wing: I don’t know why I have never watched with the director’s commentary, because damn, that is dark and wonderful.]
In a small montage, the water supplies dwindle, everyone is very quiet, and Liz spots someone walking past the door. She stays quiet. Don’t worry, I’ll come back to this, so if any commenter wants to get into this, there’ll be space later. [Wing: SUBTLE SHUT UP WING RIGHT HERE.] [Dove: I’m being as polite as I can! 🙂]
Liz: Have you ever loved anyone so much you didn’t care what happened to yourself? You just had to be with them. If they look at you, your heart stops. If you feel their breath on your skin, you just ache. Have you ever craved anyone so much you didn’t exist any more?
Liz: I have.
Fuck off, Bella Swan.
We flash back to the Hole, and Mike wants to hook up with Liz out of desperation – you can’t really fault him for that, they all must be living in barely-concealed panic.
They kiss and grope (set to Jezebel by Recoil, which is the whole reason I bought the soundtrack), but Geoff interrupts them to say that Frankie’s really sick. He actually has to yell at them several times to get them to stop. Stay classy, Mike/Liz. Their portmanteau would be Miz, and since I love The Miz, I’m not lumping his name on this toxic ship. Or Like, which doesn’t really work either.
Again, calling back to the fake flashback, Frankie is hurling her guts up. Liz sits next to her and starts gushing about how well Mike kisses, she thinks they’re falling in love, and all that bullshit. The director says it’s a riff on how teenage girls go to the toilets on a night out and dish the dirt on their boyfriends. It also makes it blazingly apparent that Liz lacks even a trace of empathy in her soul. Frankie is too busy being sick to even give Liz the side-eye over her behaviour.
After about the eleventh vomit, Liz finally realises her best friend is very sick, and offers a feeble platitude that she’s sure they’ll get out tomorrow. And actually, that’s true. As soon as she bones Mike, she’ll let them out, and everything will be fine.
That night, she does indeed bone Mike. Not really sure what’s going on with the shadows on the wall. [Wing: Director is teasing is with how this could have pulled another movie we love and suddenly had monstrous creatures show up. Vaguing it up to avoid spoilers if our readers haven’t seen that movie. Which we should recap at some point.] [Dove: Oooooh. Yes. Let’s do that.]
That night, Liz gets up – wearing Mike’s t-shirt and boxers, but note, he is not wearing her clothes, because they’re not actually in love – carrying the key, so now that she and Mike are “in love” (have boned) she can set them free.
Minor issue: Frankie’s dead.
Liz finds the body. Geoff tries to revive her, and even gives her mouth-to-mouth and chest compressions, despite the fact she’s cold. Everyone is rocked by this. Liz cries in the corner, Geoff holds Frankie’s body and Mike keeps begging Geoff to stop touching her now she’s dead.
They move the body, and Geoff, still with blood around his mouth from the mouth-to-mouth, does a thousand-yard-stare as they hold a candlelight wake for her.
We cut to the autopsy with White Coat. Frankie was bulimic and there was a tear in her oesophagus. She died on the tenth day of heart failure. [Wing: Jesus.]
Liz asks if Frankie will haunt them. Geoff says that Frankie will haunt Liz because this is all her fault. I hope Geoff is right. Tempers are fraying, and Mike and Geoff nearly throw punches. Things calm again and Geoff apologises, he says he thinks he can smell the body and he doesn’t want to smell Frankie rot.
Out of everyone, Geoff looks the worst. He says his vision is blurred, and he knows what it means. Mike offers him the last of water.
Liz heads to the bathroom, and Mike checks in on her, making sure she hasn’t taken Geoff’s words to heart. She says she wants to tell him something, I do think she’s about to come clean, but Mike won’t let her speak, being quick to reassure her that nobody blames her. She’s just about to show him the key when across the room, Geoff cracks open a can of Coke he’s squirrelled away.
This sends Mike into MIKE!SMASH mode. He flies at him, sending the can flying off, and beats Geoff’s head against the rim of the sunken place in the middle of the room. Geoff, naturally, does not survive. The autopsy confirms this was murder.
And hey, remember when I said I liked Liz looking at their sleeping positions earlier? Well, here’s why. They were sleeping in the positions they died in. Frankie sprawled out with her head tilted to the side, Geoff with his head oddly lower than his body. For a movie that is generally panned, it did foreshadow this in a very subtle way. [Wing: Right? I love that bit. A lot.]
Later, Liz gets out a knife and suggests they end it, die together, rather than wait. Mike says no, he can’t do it without her, he wants to live. He loves her.
Boom. Win. Now Liz can let them out.
In the night, Liz gets up, wearing Mike’s coat, which is what she was wearing in the first scene of this movie, and opens the door. Mike wakes up and asks how she did that.
She confesses, explaining that, “It was all for you. Because I love you.”
Mike does not see it that way, given that Frankie exploded and he murdered his BFF for a fucking can of Coke and tries to scramble up the ladder so he can kill – or at the very least, maim – Liz, but the ladder can’t take the weight of an angry flailing teenage boy, and when he’s nearly to the top, it breaks, dropping him on his back, with the cage at the top of the ladder skewering him on impact.
She cries for a long time before she realises that there’s a silver lining.
Liz: I wanted to be with him so much that I could just feel myself slipping into the air. Then I thought, at least this way, he never grows old, he never cheats on me, he never leaves. This way he just… stays perfect.
Liz is a glass half-full kinda gal.
Philippa says that Liz needs to re-tell her story to the police with solicitors and parents present. Liz says she’s not making a statement, she’s not going to ruin her life over this. It was just a thing that went wrong. She’s not at fault.
Philippa says it’s out of Liz’s hands. Everyone needs to know. Martyn will corroborate the story.
We cut back to an extended scene of Martyn yelling at Liz, saying he had no idea they couldn’t get out, etc. This is apparently why she was in a duvet earlier, because she’d got her clothes wet when drowning Martyn. And yeah, maybe, except she was wearing the same clothes under the duvet, so what… she put a duvet over her wet clothes? More proof that Liz is an alien who doesn’t understand how human girls work.
Then Tom rocks up at the bunker, and reams out Philippa for kidnapping Liz. Liz screams for help, and somehow she’s the victim again. Tom reassures her that everything’s fine, they have Martyn.
And by this, he means they have his water-logged corpse, which they found floating in the river behind Liz’s house, with the bunker key on him. Clearly a suicide.
The movie ends with Liz sitting in a car, looking smugly at Philippa, whose career is fucked.
Because only one person counts when it comes to a police investigation, I guess.
My questions on this whole investigation:
- Is no-one ever going to challenge Liz’s first narrative? There’s evidence of her being friends with the cool kids – including Geoff signing her yearbook.
- Was Martyn on the field trip or in the Dominican Republic when all this happened? Either way, isn’t that an alibi? I will concede that there may have been time to lock them in before leaving for either, but still, the timeline needed to be perfect to completely frame him. Is it?
- Let’s say that Philippa did violate all sorts of rules by taking Liz to the Hole, she could still give a statement to the police.
- Is she a credible witness? Well, given that the kids are rich, she’s probably a sought-after psychologist with a long list of happy clients, even though she really does appear to be rubbish at her job. So we can assume historically, yes.
- She made a bad judgement call by taking Liz to the Hole, but that could be chalked up to her desperation to keep her safe from Martyn (in the movie, I’m not really sure why she did it, other than she was sick of Liz’s bullshit).
- Is Liz any more credible? She’s a traumatised girl who’s given multiple accounts of what happened down there, many of the details of which are fairly easy to disprove.
- Philippa’s testimony marries up much better to the autopsies and theorised chain of events than Liz’s Disneyland-everyone-lives narrative.
- Would there be evidence of foul play on Martyn? Liz is a manipulative dickhead with no empathy, but I can’t imagine she’s so brilliant at killing that she never leaves any evidence.
Why didn’t Liz…?
Every time I mention this book, someone says: why didn’t Liz do any of the following as it would give her a scot-free way to save herself and Mike:
- Get the attention of the people while they were walking by?
- Pretend to find the key somewhere in the bunker?
- Tell Mike that she found the key on either Frankie or Geoff?
- Some variation of the above.
Liz thinks Mike will understand how much she loves him. I don’t actually think that’s very believable, she kind of went from zero to ruthless in about twelve minutes, but that’s the in-universe reason. Liz thinks all of her actions add up to a perfect love, if she can understand this logic, Mike should be flattered by the same.
People argued about this for pages on the imdb forum boards back when they existed.
[Wing: Well, as to that first one, I don’t think Liz wanted anyone from the outside to save them, which would undermine that new bond she thinks she has with Mike. And if we take her as the manipulator she is shown in the second version of the story, as well as her inability to do things that human girls do in many ways, I think it is believable that she assumed their perfect love would conquer all and that everything she did was worth it and that no one’s death was her fault.]
This requires so much idiot balling, but still I love it. I think Geoff’s a really nice character, Martyn is smug and awesome, and Liz is a complete asshat. The adults are utterly incompetent. It was a choice to keep Liz’s mum a non-speaking part, and always have her far off in the background, and that’s fine. But to have the detective (Tom) and psychologist (Philippa) be so utterly helpless in the face of a teenage girl is just laughable.
Liz isn’t even that brilliant. If this scheme had been masterminded by Blair Waldorf and/or Chuck Bass, nobody would have even known about the deaths. I can totally see Jessica Wakefield pulling this though.
Note to writers: it doesn’t make your lead smart if your other characters are stupid. It just makes them an average person mired in dimwits.
Things I liked though: the score, the foreshadowing between the fake flashback and the real one, and the fact it led me to the book… which has its own problems, but I still enjoy it.
[Wing: I really do love this movie, but the amount of bullshit that comes from the adults is terrible. Why? WHY? You can end the movie before Liz actually gets caught if you want it to be ambiguous, but at least have Tom doing some sort of real investigating. COME ON.]