Deep Into the Rabbit Hole (2011) – By Josh Samford

The late great comedian W.C. Fields is often cited with an influential quote that reads "Never work with children or animals", and I think we all realize the difficulties in working with either. The issue comes down to neither group generally listening to what well reasoned adults have to say. Deep Into the Rabbit Hole is a short film that may not be the antithesis of that line of thinking, but it certainly shows that not only can you make a solid piece of cinema using children but it can produce things that simply aren’t at all possible with adult leads. There are still issues that come from the amateur nature of many child actors, but director Pete Jacelone does a spectacular job in handling a children tale with such incredibly adult themes and situations. Similar to many of Stephen King’s best works, this is a story about children but very much set in the harsh and violent world of adults. It is certainly a movie that has its issues and is far from perfect, but with its polished slick production quality and brazen attempts at trying things that are uncommon in cinema, it manages to be something different and that is what can set it apart from the crowd.

Young Billy Hannon is your average thirteen year old boy. He likes hanging out with his friends, hates being bothered by the local bullies and loves his favorite dog. However, his life is completely changed around when that same dog is killed by “something” in the woods. This beast is too ferocious to be a wolf or any other known animal, and it is up to Billy and his best friends Roberta and Tommy to seek out and find just what this monster is. Their search inevitably leads them to a hole in the woods that seems to be the home base for this creature, but what will these kids do to stop it? Is there anything? They will soon find out, as a nightmarish world is about to unfold in front of them.

Deep Into the Rabbit Hole starts off as a relatively tame piece of youthful horror, not too terribly far from TV horror such as the Goosebumps series or Are You Afraid of the Dark from the early nineties, but as the film progresses we see a darker and more morbid vision take hold. This is a short, but you can expect some rather shocking content along the way. Children, by their very nature, evoke our sympathy as an audience when something bad comes their direction. It’s part of our nature to feel this sympathy, due to maternal and paternal instincts, so it can often feel like a cheap ploy to throw children in harm’s way. It’s an easy way to rile the audience, and I have to admit it is an entirely successful way to go about things as well. While some audience members are going to find this to be a form of exploitation, and no doubt that’s a good enough term as any to describe it, Deep Into the Rabbit Hole is well enough made that it actually manages to stand out on the strength of its child performers and the polish of its production values.

I’m not going to blow smoke up your rear right now, the quality of the acting here is not going to stand up to seasoned veterans or what one might expect from a Hollywood production. However, in terms of child performers, I have to admit that I was very impressed with the level of acting that director Pete Jacelone was able to actually get from these young performers. The children managed to craft real characters and show conviction throughout, and although it seems like a terrible idea for these kids to go out searching for a creature that completely obliterated a dog, through their performances I could understand why these kids saw this as a viable idea. And as certain children are gruesomely picked off, we feel sympathy for their characters as much as for their simply being children.

This short is slick, polished and it looks fantastic. Some of the gore effects used in the final third do not stand up to the quality that the movie had established up until that point. Using a series of varied stringed instruments for the intense soundtrack, the film seems to echo a real attempt at creating something more than just cheap and gory horror. The visual quality of the cinematography also echoes this sentiment, as the short looks spectacular. Overall the project has its ups and downs, but for the few areas where it attempts new and refreshing things, it wins over the audience. If you have the ability, make sure to give this one a shot.