Directed by Nick Hamm, starring Thora Birch, Desmond Harrington, Laurence Fox, Keira Knightley, Embeth Davidtz and Daniel Brocklebank.

Angst, the monotony of teenage life, parents who just don't understand and Thora Birch. No, it's not 'American Beauty' but 'The Hole', an adolescent adventure that goes disastrously wrong for the protagonists – and, quite frequently, the audience. Birch plays Liz, a disaffected public school girl with a huge crush on heartthrob boarder Mike (Harrington) and a plan to win him round. Together with rugby jock Geoff (Fox) and clothes horse Frankie (Knigthley) the duo decide to skip a geography trip and spend the weekend in a World War II bunker with alcoholic drink, loud music and the luxury of knowing that only class nerd Martin (Brocklebank) knows where they are. But two weeks later the quartet haven't returned to school and when a heavily traumatized Liz reappears looking like an extra from the Blitz, police psychologist Philippa Horwood (Davidtz) must figure out what happened to her three companions.

With its dreary classroom scenes, misunderstood love and just a smattering of horror, Hamm's film is more 'Grange Hill' than 'Shallow Grave'. It begins credibly with Birch dazed but convinced that her friends are alive; once Davidtz starts digging things go downhill – and underground – very fast. With actors of the calibre of Birch and Davidtz, it was reasonable to expect some mind games as the latter tries to put the jigsaw together, instead Hamm reduces Davidtz to a bit part, preferring instead to concentrate on interminable melodrama inside the bunker as the teenagers wonder who has locked the escape hatch. Any hope of suspense re-entering the film disappears as whodunit moves to whocares with a twist signposted so well in advance and you're left hoping for a supernatural force, a disgruntled trigonometry teacher with a cleaver or just an irate parent to take this film out of the eminently predictable. There were the makings of a really clever thriller here but for Hamm it's really a case of going back to school.

Harry Guerin