Puzzling Thriller Leaves Many Unanswered Questions


A wealthy teen (Charlie Shotwell) traps his family in a bunker in John and The Hole. Also starring Michael C. Hall, Jennifer Ehle, and Taissa Farmiga.


An aloof and dissociative teen takes home alone to the extreme in a puzzling psychological thriller. John and the Hole has a tennis-loving spoiled brat dumping his family in an unfinished bunker. Then engaging in weird activities while his parents and sister starve in a muddy pit. There’s a lot that doesn’t make any sense. Including a seemingly unrelated subplot that I didn’t understand at all. The film’s premise is intriguing. The plot’s execution is too ambiguous and implausible.

John (Charlie Shotwell) is a thirteen-year-old who constantly questions the adults around him. He lives in a beautiful modern house set in the deep woods. His wealthy parents, Brad (Michael C. Hall) and Anna (Jennifer Ehle), cater to his whims. His older sister, Laurie (Taissa Farmiga), kisses him on the forehead even when he’s misbehaving. He makes a surprising discovery while playing with a drone.


John’s parents explain that the big hole behind the house is a bunker. Left by a former neighbor who didn’t complete it. Anna doesn’t realize that her powerful prescription medication is missing. John’s family goes to sleep in their rooms. Then wake up frightened. They have been placed on blankets in the bottom of the bunker. Their screams for help are not heard. They cannot climb out. Anna is terrified that someone has taken John. Their demeanor changes when a quiet John appears above them. Meanwhile, a strange mother (Georgia Lyman) tells her twelve-year-old daughter, Lilly (Samantha LeBretton), a story.

John and the Hole Is Based on a Short Story

The film is written by Nicolás Giacobone; based on his short story “El Pozo”. I’d love to read the source material and shed some light on the bewildering narrative. John lies and goes to great lengths to conceal his crime. He’s depicted as a sociopath, not a psychopath. John doesn’t enjoy hurting his family. He simply wants them out of the way. Their suffering is just a casualty of him playing adult. The film goes off the deep end when John invites a friend over. He’s clearly immature with no comprehension of his severe actions. These scenes are disturbing. Then veers into absurdity as others begin to doubt his story.

The mechanics of the abductions are not believable. John is a scrawny kid who probably weighs a hundred pounds soaking wet. We see him dragging his father and using a wheelbarrow. But no explanation of how he put three adults down a thirty-foot hole. His reason for the family’s disappearance would not be accepted by any rational adult, especially when the other characters know his parents. The premise, as depicted, does not hold water. What rich family would leave a giant hole on their property? Willing suspension of disbelief can only go so far.

Related: Everything Everywhere All at Once Review: Michelle Yeoh Dazzles in a Bonkers Multiverse Adventure

The Audience is Left in a Hole


The second and third acts of this film leave many unanswered questions. I had issues with the bunker resolution. That’s nothing compared to the introduction of Lily and her mother; which takes the narrative in an utterly confusing direction. Does Lily represent the antithesis of John? What happens to her is exactly what John desired. Is she the film’s protagonist? John and the Hole leaves the audience stuck in a pit.

John and the Hole is produced by Mutressa Movies, 3311 Productions, and IFC Films. It is currently available for digital download and DVD/Blu-ray from RLJE Films.

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