Věra Chytilová’s WOLF’S HOLE can be read as a political allegory for the decline of communism in Czechoslovakia. However, taking the film at surface level – and, specifically, when watching as part of Matchbox Cineclub’s Weird Weekend in Glasgow – WOLF’S HOLE is emblematic of the ever-popular 80s teen horror film.
Opening on a wintery day on what looks like a run-down, deserted ski resort, a group of teenagers (all unknown to each other) arrives to participate on the course. No-one knows why they have been picked, or what the course involves, but all revel in the idea of participating. Meeting with their instructors – the ominous “Daddy” (Miroslav Machácek), disconcerting Babeta (Stepánka Cervenková) and unsettling Dingo (Tomás Palatý) – the teenagers are taken to where they will be staying, which looks exactly as though it has been constructed to be the location of a horror film. In their accommodation, the groups are told there is an imposter – there should only be ten participants and eleven have arrived. The rest of the film is like a social experiment to find the outsider, and the children are repeatedly set against one another by the instructors as food runs out and tensions run high.
As with most horror films, music is a key signifier of mood in WOLF’S HOLE. From the beginning, the synthetic music is tense and foreboding – not dissimilar to the recognisable TWIN PEAKS refrain – and it is clear there is something amiss with the situation. While another film might attempt to lead the viewer into a false sense of security, like much of the oeuvre, WOLF’S HOLE makes clear it will be firmly rooted in the Sci-Fi horror genre.
Although the film isn’t entirely unbelievable, it is precisely this that makes it enjoyable. In its obviousness, WOLF’S HOLE should be funny, but instead it still manages to frighten and raise the hairs on the back of your neck. While much of this is owed to the troubling sound effects, there is also much to be said for the acting which generates credibility in an unbelievable narrative.
Undoubtedly, there is little shock factor involved in WOLF’S HOLE. When it is revealed that the instructors are actually aliens, it feels almost like an anti-climax rather than the big reveal. Although this film lacks any real build, the ending is pleasing and quite wholesome. It would perhaps have benefitted from a bit more gore but it is intriguing enough to be remembered as an enjoyable, and quite scary, watch.
Although the political undertones of Chytilová’s film are perhaps lost on certain audiences, the film can still be enjoyed by a modern audience. There is plenty left unsaid in WOLF’S HOLE, with the characters’ backgrounds only hinted at, and the true extent of this alien species’ presence on earth never revealed. It is such elements which give WOLF’S HOLE something of a modern edge; the film never tries to explain everything and instead succeeds best when it holds itself back from the full reveal.