The movie was quirky, heartbreaking, heartwarming, thrilling, and all around just great. I mean, let’s be real, who doesn’t love Holes? The cast was diverse, offbeat, and resilient; from Kissin’ Kate Barlow, Zero (of whom I promptly printed out a photo, and hung it to the inside of my fourth grade locker), Stanley Yelnats, Madame Zeroni, and even the villainous counselors, The Warden and Mr. Sir.
The movie was an instant classic, and still remains so today. And, we all know that the movie was based on the equally charming novel but, what you may not be aware of is that the movie as we know it isn’t at all what the original screenplay set out to be.
In fact, before selling the rights of Holes over to Disney and eventually having the author of the book, Louis Sachar, write the screenplay, the script was originally sold to Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko) who wrote something entirely darker.
Image via Metafilter
And, man oh man, is this script umm…different than the Disney one we’ve all grown so accustomed to. Even Kelly knew he was doing something wildly different than what the production team would want:
I was very naïve. And I was convinced that I could convince them that this was the cooler version of the movie. And they were just like, ‘No, we want to make a PG-rated pretty faithful adaptation of this best-selling book. We have Andrew Davis directing. You’re insane. Please sign this contract. We’re not going to pay you any more money. We respect you. We like you. But we’re moving on in a different direction.’
The script is this dystopian, post-nuclear-war, R-rated thriller set in a world where Big Brother is always watching. There are no yellow spotted lizards, there’s no Kissin’ Kate (what? How?), and The Warden is a totalitarian man.
Still, despite being different and lacking a lot of the heart of the actual Holes, this script stands out in a way completely it’s own. It highlights the inefficiency of our justice system, along with the systemic racial oppression it continually enforces. It’s futuristic, unusual, insanely dark, and political in the most important ways.
Image via Metafilter
Honestly, this unusual and previously rejected screenplay feels all-too-relevant as to what’s going on politically in our world today. Who knows, maybe Richard Kelly will one day revisit this script and give us all a new dystopian flick to obsess over?
The first time I read Holes by Louis Sachar it blew my tiny sixth-grade mind. My librarian had told me that the ending was incredible, but I was simply not prepared. The way all the little threads wove together, all the loose ends tied up so perfectly?? I was shook. Beyond shook. I was a new person. I was reborn. I was a phoenix, rising from the ashes of my former self. The ‘S’ shelf of my elementary school library was now a sacred space, where Sachar leaned against Jerry Spinelli, where Holes and Stargirl, the two most influential books I read as a child, stood side by side. I even fantasized that I would one day sneak my own book between theirs— Sachar, Spinabelli, Spinelli. The Holy Trinity. The Three Musketeers. Name a more iconic trio, I’ll wait.
Of course, that hasn’t happened yet, and I’ve moved on to more realistic fantasies, like faking my own death to get out of paying my student loans. But the other day on the train I was reminded of my sixth-grade dream. There was a kid reading Holes by Louis Sachar. The cover art was different from the version I’d read back in the day, but the nostalgia bit me like a yellow-spotted lizard, nonetheless. That lucky little punk! She was reading Holes for (presumably) the first time! I was insanely jealous, realizing that I would never get to read Holes for the first time again— barring some sort of conveniently specific amnesia. So I went home and revisited Camp Green Lake, flipping through my own paperback copy. And, though it wasn’t the same as reading it for the first time, it was weirdly eye-opening to read as an adult. I realized how many terrible grown-ups exist in Stanley Yelnats’ world. There’s something Roald Dahl-ish about it.
So, here we go. In my opinion, there are six solid villains in Holes, and after careful thought and research, I have ranked them from least to most evil. Enjoy.
6. Derrick Dunne
Okay, if you haven’t read the book in a while but you’ve seen the movie recently, you probably don’t remember Derrick Dunne. He doesn’t make it into the final cut of the movie, which is a shame because he is the whole reason for the season! He sets everything in motion! He’s the reason Stanley Yelnats gets sent to Camp Green Lake, and, get this, he’s the reason Stanley Yelnats is released from Camp Green Lake! Yes! Derrick Dunne! Amateur villain and elementary school bully!
So basically, Derrick Dunne takes Stanley’s notebook one day and plays keep-away with it for a bit, tormenting our young hero. Dunne eventually throws the notebook in the school toilet, and Stanley has to fish it out, consequently missing his bus home. So he walks home, and Clyde Livingston’s sneakers fall from the sky and hit him, and the rest is history. We don’t hear from Derrick Dunne again until the end of the book, when his testimony proves Stanley’s innocence— Stanley couldn’t have stolen Clyde Livingston’s shoes, he was too busy getting bullied! For these reasons, Derrick Dunne earns the title of villain, but just barely. He kind of redeems himself in the end, and he’s just a kid, after all. It’s the adults who are really to blame.
5. Mrs. Bell
Again, a character that only appears in the book:
“On his last day of school, his math teacher, Mrs. Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class, and had them weigh themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as the other boy. Mrs. Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.”
So aside from the obvious humiliation and body-shaming going on here, I have another bone to pick with this Mrs. Bell character. Why is she teaching a new lesson on the last day of school? What’s the goal here, Mrs. Bell? What kind of sadistic witch just plunges forward with the math curriculum on the literal last day of class? The last day of school is for signing yearbooks and cleaning out your locker and watching movies in the dark AC of your classroom and noticing how eerie and empty the room looks without all the bulletin board decorations, and realizing that time changes everything and everything will eventually come to an end. It’s not a day for learning new concepts! It’s not a day for teaching lessons! What the actual cuss, Mrs. Bell. You’re a villain. You’re barely mentioned in the book, but you’re a villain forever in my mind.
4. Mr. Sir
Image Via Holes Wiki
At last, we arrive at Camp Green Lake. Mr. Sir is easily the tamest villain at Camp Green Lake. He’s more like a grumpy, sexist uncle than an actual villain. He’s always eating sunflower seeds and saying stuff like “this isn’t a Girl Scout camp.” Like, okay? No one ever said it was? His villainy mostly just stems from his position at Camp Green Lake, which is essentially a child labor camp masquerading as some sort of juvenile rehabilitation.
But also, there’s the bit where he brings Stanley to The Warden for stealing his sunflower seeds, and The Warden scratches him (Mr. Sir) across the face with her wet rattlesnake venom nails (iconic) for bothering her about something so petty. Mr. Sir is completely emasculated and humiliated in front of Stanley, and in an act of Toxic Masculinity™ decides to take it out on poor, helpless Stanley by depriving him of water. This is pretty much the only instance of Mr. Sir actually hatching his own act of villainy, because for the most part he’s just a dumb pawn in The Warden’s master plan.
3. The Warden
The Warden runs the show. The Warden owns the shade. The Warden has badass rattlesnake venom nail polish (seriously, so iconic!) and villainy is pretty much in her DNA. She can’t help it, she’s Trout Walker’s granddaughter. She earns the spot as third-worst villain because she is basically the mastermind behind this ridiculous camp scheme, which is honestly pretty genius.
Kissin’ Kate Barlow’s fortune is buried somewhere in this vast desert, and instead of trying to find it and dig it up herself, as she was forced to as a kid, The Warden opens up a camp. She somehow convinces people that digging holes all day has a sort of rehabilitative quality for delinquent boys, and boom. Camp Green Lake. Not exactly a get-rich-quick scheme, but The Warden is patient. She’ll wait for some pimply teenager to dig up her fortune. She’ll wait as long as she has to.
2. Mr. Pendanski
At last, the villain who’s ranking I am the most passionate about: Stanley’s camp counselor, Mr. Pendanski. This dude is messed up. He comes off as so nice, he earns the campers’ trust, they nickname him Mom, but don’t be fooled. He is no one’s mom. He is a literal pile of hot garbage. First of all, he insists on calling all of his campers by their real names, not their nicknames, with one exception. He calls Hector Zeroni by his nickname, Zero, claiming “there’s nothing inside his head.” As a former camp counselor, this disturbs me to my core. You can’t just single out a camper like that! How un-kumbaya of you, Mr. Pendanski. He picks on Zero throughout the book, taunting him and calling him stupid and telling him digging holes is all he’ll ever be good for. It’s textbook emotionally abusive behavior.
But wait, it gets worse. In the final scene at Camp Green Lake, Zero and Stanley are trapped in a hole with a bunch of deadly yellow-spotted lizards and Kissin’ Kate Barlow’s fortune. The camp staff hovers on the ground above them, essentially waiting for the boys to get bitten and die so they can retrieve the treasure. Obviously this is super messed up and villainous of all of them, but Pendanski manages to make some pretty dark comments that push his villain-status over the edge. “At least we’ll have a body to give that woman,” he says, referring to the social worker who came looking for Stanley a few days prior. He then says, “maybe we should just shoot them,” and when another staff member asks if he means the lizards or the kids, he laughs (!) and replies, “the kids are going to die anyway.” He then laughs AGAIN, and says “at least we got plenty of graves to chose from.” WHAT. THE. CUSS. In conclusion, Mr. Pendanski is a sick, twisted man with no empathy and no soul and no business being a camp counselor. He is a second-place villain only because our first-place villain is a literal murderer.
1. Trout Walker
Image Via Villains Wiki
Charles “Trout” Walker is the villain of all villains in Holes. He’s got it all: the Toxic Masculinity™ of Mr. Sir, the evil master planning of The Warden, the dark, twisted nature of Mr. Pendanski, and, as an added bonus, he’s a racist murderer! Let’s dig in, shall we? I’ve waited this whole article to make that joke. I’m so very tired.
To start, Trout Walker is gross. Literally, because of this foot fungus that makes his feet smell like fish, and also because he’s sleazy AF. He takes an adult night class to learn how to read, but he’s disruptive and is mostly just interested in getting with the teacher, Katherine Barlow. After class one night, he asks to go out on his motor boat with him. The motor boat is described as making a loud noise and spewing “ugly black smoke over the beautiful lake.” She turns him down, because air pollution, and he says, “No one ever says ‘No’ to Charles Walker!” So, he’s spoiled and also needs to grasp the concept of consent.
Later on, after it’s been revealed that Katherine has kissed Sam, a black man, Walker leads a mob of people to the school house, destroying Katherine’s classroom, calling her “The Devil Woman,” and eventually burning down the entire school. And of course, solidifying his rank as top villain, Trout Walker crashes his motor boat into Sam’s rowboat and shoots him in the water. Hence, racist murderer. I shouldn’t have to explain why this makes him the most evil, so I won’t.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go reread Stargirl.