THE HOLE IN 3D
Dante has quietened down in the 21st Century, only turning out three films the reasonably successful Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), The Hole and the dvd-released Burying the Ex (2014) since 2000, in between assorted tv episode work. The Hole was the first film he made in six years and it would be a further five after this until he returned with Burying the Ex. I am not sure if this represents either a fact that Dante is no longer box-office gold and there is less of an interest in his brand of genre comedy as there used to be, or he is just slowing down as he passes the age of 65 what is mandatory retirement age in most other professions. The Hole was also subject to considerable delays in releasing, premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2009, floating around other festivals for the next few years but failing to secure release in anything other than a handful of theatres before being dumped to dvd in 2012.
The Hole was made as a 3D film indeed, even though I was watching a flat dvd release, it is still titled The Hole in 3D. The interesting thing about this is that the film was made before Avatar (2009), which premiered three months later the same year and led to a massive upsurge in 3D that has spread to almost every major studio release since then. Most of the post-Avatar films use 3D solely as a box-office gimmick. However, in the case of The Hole, we have a film that has been conceptually designed as a work for 3D from the way the hole stretches down into infinity and we see various things dangled/dropped down, the running through the lattice of a rollercoaster, or the climactic scenes with Chris Massoglia being hunted around a mock-up of his childhood house as it is collapsing into the void. You would have thought that this would have made the film a natural one that could be repackaged for the 3D fad in the aftermath of Avatar a point when studios were hurriedly rejigging films that had been shot flat to release them in 3D and the mystery is why amid this it continued to be dogged by release hold-ups for several years to a point where when audiences did eventually see it the 3D fad had become so prevalent it was no longer anything remarkable.
Dante makes an enjoyable Coming of Age film, something in the vein of The Goonies (1985) or Dantes own Explorers and Matinee. You could easily imagine it as one of the Goosebumps adventures. And it is a genre for which Joe Dante demonstrates he an affinity and an affection. The kids all give fine performances and Dante seems at ease allowing them to perform. Dante also does well with the horror with there being some quite reasonable scenes with young Nathan Gamble dealing with a malevolent clown doll.
Dante is also much more subdued when it comes to his manic in-referencing and movie homages/in-jokes that frequently take over his other films. There is still his touchstone Dick Miller turning up a pizza delivery guy in one scene (and looking rather long in the tooth these days). You can also spot clips from Gorgo (1961) on tv, while Bruce Dern lives in an Orlac factory presumably named after the classic silent German horror film The Hands of Orlac (1924).
Joe Dantes other genre films are: Piranha (1978), The Howling (1980), the third episode of the anthology Twilight Zone The Movie (1983), Gremlins (1984), Explorers (1985), Innerspace (1987), segments of the comedy skit anthology Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), the suburban paranoia black comedy The Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), the excellent Matinee (1993) about a genre fans childhood, the toy wars film Small Soldiers (1998), the witty toon adventure Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), parts of the anthology Trapped Ashes (2006), the childrens horror film The Hole (2009) and Burying the Ex (2014) about a zombie ex-girlfriend. Dante also created the delightful smalltown paranoia tv series Eerie Indiana (1991-2) and produced the short-lived The Osiris Chronicles (1998) and Jeremiah (2002-3), as well as the film adaptation of the comic-book legend The Phantom (1996).