Fantastic Review: ‘The Holding’ Shoots Itself In the Foot With a Shotgun

By  · Published on September 28th, 2011

The Holding begins with a dark action and stumbles its way through thriller territory, making pit stops along the way to undermine itself every time it starts to get gritty.

Cassie Naylor (Kierston Wareing) is a tough woman whose farm is struggling, whose teenage daughter Hannah (Skye Lourie) is rebelling, and whose youngest daughter Amy (Maisie Lloyd) is beginning to get curious about everything around her. Even though a friendly old man called Cooper (David Bradley) helps out with the cows and the sewage pump, the holding is still not turning a profit. Bills are piling up, and Cassie’s neighbor Karsten (Terry Stone) is overtly obsessed with buying the land one way or another.

That’s when aimless drifter Aden (Vincent Regan) enters the picture. He solves a few problems for Cassie and her young girls but ultimately becomes one himself.

The biggest element of the entire film is Regan’s ability to terrify with just a look. His Aden is the kind of villain that can turn the world on with a smile, but if you say the wrong thing to him, you’ll find your jaw cracked faster than you can see the fist coming. He’s got anger issues, but they’re certainly justifiable. At least they are at first before the writing betrays him and things fall apart.

Unfortunately, the script (or editing, since it’s hard to understand the culprit here) continually aims a shotgun at its foot by making a handful of moronic choices that are enough to sink the whole ship. It’s clear from the starting gun that Aden is a dangerous variable, but the movie delivers the truth about what’s going on through context clues before explicitly re-explaining it in painful exposition a few scenes later.

That’s not the only albatross swinging from the movie’s neck, but it might be the most glaring. It’s a shame, too, because there’s a lot of potential here and a lot of scenes which capitalize on it and strong performances. Wareing holds her own as a mother in the middle of converging forces. She’s barely keeping it together while her home life is simultaneously invaded by a new figure, uprooted by an angsty daughter and threatened by an outside entity. Lourie is also a standout, crafting a character that goes beyond youthful cliche into territory that gives Hannah depth without overdoing it.

However there’s just no contest when it comes to Vincent Regan’s incalculable creepiness. He could burn down a room with his eyes and give you a black eye with one word. He’s truly a frightening actor, and his weather-worn face does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to making the family squirm.

Not only is the movie a bit of a mess which swings focus back and forth unevenly between family members, the root of the problem is the reality of what’s going on. It’s the kind of dumb revelation that screenwriter James Dormer and director Susan Jacobson must have thought awfully clever, but which doesn’t make much logical sense. There’s a hint here that things from your past never stay buried, but it takes the winding road to get there, and convoluted structure is the last thing a movie like this needs.

On that note, it also doesn’t need the ending it arrives at – one that includes one of the cheesiest, tonally incorrect explosion that’s ever appeared on the big screen. Like most other great ideas and moments in the film, it seeks to undermine itself by being misplaced and poorly done.

Overall, The Holding is a strong performance vehicle but a flaccid concept. It’s the kind of movie that would have done better with a straightforward premise which simply allowed Regan to scare the hell out of everyone. Instead, all the sharpness of it gets dulled along the way and it becomes laughably bad by the end.

The Upside: Interesting ideas, strong performances, and an absolutely terrifying villain.

The Downside: A few terrible moments that prove that even small holes (if there are enough of them) can sink a big ship.

On the Side: This is the first feature from Jacobson who has made several shorts before this. With any luck she’ll keep honing her skills in order to eventually make a more complete film.

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